Alberta’s new premier Danielle Smith is taking the reins of government at a time when many families are struggling to pay their bills.
Inflation is high. The wages of many Albertans are not keeping up.
Alberta’s minimum wage has been frozen at $15 since October 1, 2018. Before the Kenney regime’s minimum-wage freeze, Alberta’s provincial government raised the minimum wage each year from 2011 through 2018.
I have been researching minimum wage for Parkland Institute since 2015. Throughout that time, the general profile of the 200,000 minimum-wage workers in Alberta has been fairly consistent:
- About 60% are women
- About 34% are the heads of their households
- About 41% are parents
- About 4% are single parents with children under 18
- About 9% are married, single earner, with children under 18
- About 73% are not teenagers
- About 34% have a post-secondary degree, certificate, or diploma
- About 58% have been in their job for over one year
- About 74% are in permanent jobs
- About 60% work for companies with more than 100 employees
1. Government of Alberta. Ministry of Labour and Immigration. June 2021. Alberta Minimum Wage Profile.
2. Annual Averages, 2019-2020, Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey.
The United Conservative government’s multi-year minimum-wage freeze is hurting a large group of workers who are mostly women, who have significant work experience, education, and job tenure, who mostly work for businesses with more than 100 employees, and many of whom are parents and heads of their households.
Premier Smith could give minimum-wage workers a hand up during these difficult times by raising the minimum wage. The UCP government should also legislate annual increases to the minimum wage that align with the annual rate of inflation.
Far from being jobs for workers with “no skills” (as Smith argued in a video last year), minimum-wage jobs are essential to our economy.
Keeping the minimum wage frozen is not good for workers, the government, or the economy. In fact, there are many benefits to raising the minimum wage.
Freezing the minimum wage forces many employed Albertans to rely more heavily on the government and the charitable sector for assistance to make ends meet.
Raising the minimum wage improves consumer spending power and stimulates local economies because low-income earners not only spend most of their income but also spend it chiefly in their community.
Raising the minimum wage slows down widening income inequality, especially as 60% of Alberta low-wage workers are women.
Full-time workers should not be poor. They should be lifted out of poverty, but that’s not the case with a $15 minimum wage.
While the living wage varies from community to community, it is universally over $17 an hour in Alberta. Earning a living wage means workers are better able to afford the necessities of life, including healthier food for their children and themselves.
Minimum-wage hikes don’t hurt our economy. They help ensure more working Albertans are fairly compensated for doing essential jobs that our entire society and economy rely on.
Alberta’s underpaid essential workers deserve nothing less than a living wage, especially while they are serving Albertans during a pandemic.