Few topics are as controversial right now in Canada as raising the minimum wage.
Recently, the B.C. government announced a 50-cent increase starting next month. The NDP says this was the first move toward the goal of reaching a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2021. Meanwhile Alberta and Ontario plan to reach the $15 mark by 2018.
The argument of those who agree with the minimum wage increase is that it would not only be beneficial for low-income earners, but it would also be good for the overall economy. Meanwhile, others argue raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses, which would then have to offset their increased expenses by reducing hours and laying off employees.
The B.C. government claims a minimum wage increase will benefit close to 100,000 British Columbians. But while raising the minimum wage might seem like a good idea to lift people out of poverty, it’s important to know who exactly is included in this demographic.
In 2016, the percentage of employees earning minimum wage in British Columbia was 4.8 per cent, or 93,800 people. Of this total, the large majority (54 per cent) were youth aged 15 to 24 years old. This means a large portion of low-income earners in Canada are teenagers who are still living with their parents and therefore don’t depend on their income for survival.
There are other ways to lift people out of poverty. Canada could use its tax system to redistribute wealth, and many defend the idea of a guaranteed basic income.
But when economists themselves disagree on the issue of raising the minimum wage, it makes the rest of us mortals wonder what will actually happen once these changes come into effect.