Minimum wage: $18 for a decent living

With an eighteen-dollar minimum hourly wage, hundreds of thousands of workers could escape poverty. What is the government waiting for?

To escape poverty, you need full-time work with a high-enough salary to meet your basic needs and to put some money aside.

The government’s minimum wage increase to $14.25 as of May 1, 2022, falls far short of expectations, according to the Coalition Minimum 18$ which brings together key labour organizations like the CSQ as well as several organizations advocating for the rights of non-unionized workers. To learn more, CSQ Magazine met with CSQ Research Advisor Pierre-Antoine Harvey.

CSQ MAGAZINE: HOW WAS IT DETERMINED THAT AN $18 MINIMUM WAGE WAS NECESSARY TO ESCAPE POVERTY?

Pierre-Antoine Harvey: The campaign led by the Coalition Minimum 18 and discussions about the minimum wage are based on one principle: a single person that works full-time [35 hours per week] at the minimum wage should be able to lift themselves out of poverty. They should be able to cover a little bit more than their basic needs, which is why we are calling for $18 in 2022.

HOW MANY PEOPLE IN QUÉBEC WORK AT THE MINIMUM WAGE?

Close to 300,000 people work at the minimum wage [currently $13.50, $14.25 as of May 1, 2022] across Québec. However, our demand impacts a lot more people—the hourly wage of some 500,000 other workers lies somewhere between the minimum wage and $18. Increasing the minimum wage to $18 would automatically impact a great number of workers.

This measure could also push up other salaries around $18. For instance, workers earning $19 may want to distance themselves from the minimum wage and turn to their employers to ask for more. Our demand would easily affect over a million workers, which would have a huge impact on reducing poverty.

WOULD AN INCREASE OF THE MINIMUM WAGE TO $18 DRIVE UP CONSUMER PRICES?

Studies have shown that an increase of the minimum wage does bring price increases but not significantly. The impact on inflation of a 30% salary hike would be from 1 to 2% for the overall economy. As this would not be a proportional increase, the impact of the salary increase would not be removed by inflation.

AND HOW ABOUT RELATED JOB LOSSES?

The idea of job losses due to a minimum wage increase, given the current workforce shortage, is a myth we need to debunk. Evidence has shown no direct link between the two, on the contrary. As sectors with lower wages need more staff, employers need to encourage workers to accept available jobs. An increase in minimum wage is a great selling point.

WHY IMPOSE A MINIMUM WAGE INSTEAD OF SIMPLY LETTING THE JOB MARKET SORT ITSELF OUT?

There is a great need for workers right now, particularly in sectors with lower wages; this might lead, quite organically, to higher salaries. Right now, workers have some leverage in the job market, something they don’t normally have when it comes time to negotiate their salary. However, historically, their ability to negotiate is limited, even non-existent. That is why the government should step up and ensure a minimum for everyone.

ON A FINAL NOTE, WHY IS THE CSQ’S INVOLVEMENT WITHIN THE $18 MINIMUM COALITION SO IMPORTANT?

The Coalition Minimum 18$ combines the forces of organizations representing workers or people living in poverty. The Centrale is taking an active part in this solidarity effort that goes far beyond fighting for our members. This will result in better working conditions for all workers across our society. Solidarity among organizations really can make a world of difference.


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