Thursday, January 16, 2014

Minimum Wage & The Working Poor In Canada

Canada's Working Poor

An article in CBC News reports on one Toronto womans story on how a minimum-wage job is not enough to support herself and her family—she forming a large cohort of what is called the working poor. More than 800,000 individuals earn no more than the minimum wage in Canada, many living in Toronto, Canada's largest city.

The CBC article says:
Since moving to Canada from Bangladesh as a refugee in 2002, 33-year-old Acsana Fernando has not been able to earn much more than the minimum wage.

She has worked in restaurants, security and factories. She now works night shifts at group homes where she helps care for physically and mentally disabled residents — employment secured through a temp agency. "When I came here, I thought any sort of job will help me to reach my goal," she says. 
But now I realize it’s not easy. I’m working so hard, and still I am working poor..”
Fernando makes $10.25 an hour at the group homes, the minimum wage in Ontario. Her usual monthly take-home pay after taxes is between $1,100 and $1,300, she says. The family gets a small amount of extra money from Fernando’s father’s monthly disability cheque.
The money goes quickly: $850 a month goes toward rent on a subsidized apartment Fernando shares with her father and brother, who also can’t work because of his health, she says. She buys groceries when she can, but often uses a food bank to feed herself and her family, which costs her two transit tokens — and a few hours of waiting in line — a visit.
Fernando says she can’t afford to pay $133.75 at the start of the month for a bus pass, and struggles to find money for transit tokens to get her to and from work. “If I get off [the bus] coming from school to the grocery store, it’s an extra token, which is very significant,” she says. “A token is almost like gold to me.”
Life was even harder a few years back. She needed to save $33,000 to sponsor her father coming to Canada, so she bought a second-hand car and began sleeping in it to save on rent. “I was sleeping in the car, and doing two full-time jobs, earning the minimum wage, so I can [afford] the required amount,” she says.
Toronto is one of the most-expensive cities for food and shelter in Canada, and speaking from personal experience, the cost of living here is about 40 per cent more than Montreal, my native city and a more livable place in many ways. The poverty line (the federal government prefers to call it the more innocuous low-income threshold) for a family of four is about $43,000 in Toronto [StatsCan; 2011]. Two minimum-wage earners working full time do not reach the poverty line.                                                                                                                      
You can read the rest of the article at [CBC]

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