Empowering Clients for a Living Wage: Strategies for Career Professionals

Sustainable career development represented amongst some of the elements in the UN's icon for their 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative.

As a career professional, you help clients achieve their professional goals and find fulfilling work. However, it’s important to remember that financial stability is a crucial part of their overall well-being. One way to support our clients’ financial health is by understanding the concept of living wage and its implications for job seekers and workers.

A living wage is the minimum income needed to cover basic expenses such as food, housing, clothing, transportation, healthcare, and other essentials. It should also allow for modest savings to cover emergencies. This figure varies depending on factors such as family size, local cost of living, and geographic region.

This concept is different from a minimum wage, which is the minimum hourly rate that employers are legally required to pay their employees. The concept aims to ensure that workers can afford a decent standard of living without having to rely on government assistance or charitable donations.

Why Living Wage Matters to Career Professionals

Career professionals should be aware of the living wage and minimum wage rates in their area as it can impact their clients’ job search and career decisions. For example, job seekers may need to factor in the cost of living in their area and whether the wages being offered by employers will provide a livable income. Additionally, for clients who are looking to make a career change or advance in their current field, understanding the wage trends and requirements in their industry can help them set realistic goals and negotiate better salaries.

Career pros can also play a role in advocating for policies that support fair wages. They can provide education and resources to their clients and employers about the importance of fair compensation for workers, and work with community organizations and government agencies to promote economic equality. By understanding and addressing the issue of low wages, career development professionals can help support the financial well-being and stability of their clients and communities. As a start, you should be aware of living wage policies and rates in your area and how you can help clients advocate for fair compensation.

Canada’s Living Wage Framework

The Canadian Living Wage Framework is overseen by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The CCPA provides guidance and support to local organizations that are working to promote the adoption of living wage policies in their communities.

The concept of a living wage in Canada is generally supported by progressive political parties, labour unions, and social justice organizations who view it as a way to address poverty and income inequality. These groups argue that such a policy can improve the standard of living for low-wage workers and their families, reduce reliance on government subsidies, and stimulate local economies by increasing consumer spending.

However, some business groups and conservative politicians have expressed concern that a living wage could increase labour costs and reduce employment opportunities, particularly for small businesses. They argue that employers should have the freedom to set wages based on market conditions and the value of the work being performed, and that mandated pay levels could harm job creation and economic growth.

Despite these differing viewpoints, several Canadian cities and provinces have implemented living wage policies or are currently considering them.

Wage Rates Across Canada

In Canada, the living wage varies by province and city due to differences in the cost of living. The information in the chart below is based on the most recent rates available and shows the difference between the minimum wage rate and the living wage rate.

The living wage is generally higher than the minimum wage. Note that even in 2021, the living wage for a family of four was higher than current minimum wages. With the minimum wage below the living wage in each province and territory, many workers may struggle to meet their basic needs without additional support from government programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit or affordable housing initiatives.

*Rates are subject to change. Minimum Wage Rate
(May 1, 2023)
Living Wage Rate
(CCPA 2021 Family of Four)
British Columbia $15.65/hour $20.62/hour
Alberta $15.00/hour $17.36/hour (in Calgary)
Saskatchewan $13.00/hour $16.46/hour (in Regina)
Manitoba $14.15/hour $16.15/hour (in Winnipeg)
Ontario $15.50/hour $18.21/hour (in Toronto)
Quebec $14.25/hour $16.55/hour (in Montreal)
New Brunswick $14.75/hour $18.61/hour (in Fredericton)
Nova Scotia $14.50/hour $19.49/hour (in Halifax)
Prince Edward Island $14.50/hour $17.15/hour (in Charlottetown)
Newfoundland and Labrador $14.50/hour $17.95/hour (in St. John’s)
Yukon $16.77/hour $19.53/hour (in Whitehorse)
Northwest Territories $15.20/hour $23.71/hour (in Yellowknife)
Nunavut $16.77/hour $26.08/hour (in Iqaluit)

These numbers may not reflect the actual wages paid by employers in each location. However, you can use the rates as a benchmark to help your clients ensure that their basic needs will be met. When helping a client to determine their living wage, remind them that the cost of living differs significantly across the country.

Living wage rates are calculated by local organizers and advocates and are updated annually, when possible. You and your clients can find the most recent rates for different geographic areas at Living Wage Canada.

Some provinces and territories have different minimum wage rates for different types of workers (for example, liquor servers or agricultural workers), as well as separate rates for young workers or apprentices. The Government of Canada provides an overview of the minimum wage rates in each province and territory, as well as information on the history of minimum wage laws in Canada and the federal minimum wage for workers in federally regulated industries.

Helping Your Clients Ensure Fair Compensation

You can play an important role in helping your clients ensure that they are receiving appropriate compensation. Here are some suggestions for what you can say and do when working with clients:

  • Educate clients about the importance of fair compensation: Explain to clients why it’s important to be paid fairly for their work, both for their own financial stability and for the overall health of the economy.
  • Encourage clients to do research: Clients can research the average salary for their desired role in their region and compare their skills and experience to others in the same field. They can also research the living wage in their area to ensure that their income is sufficient to cover their basic needs.
  • Advise clients on negotiation: You can help clients develop a salary and compensation negotiation strategy and provide resources to assist in the negotiation process.
  • Encourage clients to network: Networking with peers in the same field can help clients learn about compensation trends and opportunities in their industry.
  • Stay up to date on minimum wage laws: Stay informed about changes in minimum wage laws and communicate these changes to clients. This information can help clients understand their rights as workers and ensure that they are being paid fairly according to the law.

Living Wage Employers

A living wage employer in Canada is an employer who pays their employees a wage that is sufficient to cover the basic necessities of life. Unlike the minimum wage, which is a legally mandated minimum hourly rate that employers must pay their employees, the living wage is a voluntary commitment made by some employers to provide employees with a wage that allows them to live with dignity and security.

Many cities in Canada have campaigns that encourage employers to pay a living wage, and some have even established certification programs to recognize employers who have committed to paying a living wage to their employees.

The Canadian Living Wage Framework is based on the UK Living Wage Foundation‘s methodology. In Canada, the Living Wage Foundation has authorized a number of organizations to certify Living Wage Employers in various regions. To become a certified Living Wage Employer, an organization must pay all of its employees, including contractors and subcontractors, a wage that meets or exceeds the living wage rate for the region in which they operate. To maintain their certification, they must submit an annual re-certification application and report on their current status of paying a living wage. Once certified, Living Wage Employers are authorized to use the Living Wage Employer logo in their marketing and promotional materials to indicate their commitment to fair pay.

Your Call to Action

As career professionals, we have a responsibility to help our clients achieve their career goals while also promoting economic justice and equality. By understanding the concept of living wage and its implications for job seekers and workers, we can educate clients on the importance of financial stability and receiving fair compensation for work.

Our role includes advocating for policies that promote fair wages, staying informed about changes in minimum wage laws, and empowering our clients to effectively negotiate for pay that will allow them to provide financial security for their families. Ultimately, our efforts to promote fair wages can lead to more fulfilling careers, stronger communities, and a more just and equitable society.

Sharon Graham is founder and interim executive director of Career Professionals of Canada. Committed to setting the standard for excellence in the career development profession, Sharon has authored top selling paperback publications and textbooks, and has established a range of certification, professional development, community development, mentoring, and award programs. As chair of the board of CPC, she provides foresight and leadership within the sector and ensures that the mandate of this national organization is upheld with integrity.

Portions of this article include content modified from text generated by AI.



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