Mae* came to the Women’s Centre to learn about community resources and pick out birthday gifts for her children.
“Every little thing helps. I need to spend my money on what I need, and not what I want. Birthdays are a big deal when you’re a kid.”
She has worked part-time at the same place for 6 years and now earns a little over $12/hour. She has three young children and a partner who also works.
Minimum wage is set to increase to $12.20 in October. For the first time in years, employees who serve alcohol will no longer have a lower minimum wage.
For full-time minimum wage earners, this translates into $160 more every month. This money will reduce the depth poverty many women see, but new minimums are still significantly below the Living Wage levels calculated by VCC every year. Living Wage for Calgary this year is $18.15 for full-time workers without benefits. It means everyone who works will be able to meet their basic needs and live with dignity.
The Alberta government has stated that minimum wage will reach $15/hour by 2018.
Today, the vast majority of minimum wage workers are adults, and two thirds of those are women. About a half of all minimum wage workers are parents. In fact, 16,000 single parents in Alberta are raising children on less than $15 an hour – and 4 out of 5 single parents are women
Every year, thousands of women visit the Women’s Centre for support with basic needs items and referrals to other agencies. Many of these women work in retail or chain restaurants, earning minimum wage, and still live in poverty.
Mae and I talked about upcoming increases to minimum wage, which she said were reasonable. Not enough to change her life significantly, but enough to make things a little easier.
“I could afford to buy more snacks that I can’t afford now,” said Mae, adding that she’s trying to teach her children about budgeting when they do groceries together. “Whatever I make is gone by the end of the day.”
*Name changed on request