Public Interest Alberta has released its annual low wage report with data from Statistics Canada which shows that nearly a quarter million of Alberta’s lowest wage workers can legally have their wages cut this year.
“The minimum wage freeze means a small pay cut this year, and if it continues over time, it will result in a big pay cut to the lowest wage workers who are already struggling,” said Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta. “We’re missing a key opportunity to put more money into the pockets of Alberta’s lowest wage workers. A raise for them would not only boost our economy, but would also allow more people to live with dignity and security.”
The government announced earlier this summer it will create a panel to explore whether reducing the minimum pay for Alberta alcohol servers could give them more working hours and boost their overall income through tips.
The Public Interest Alberta report states more than 5,000 minimum wage workers in Red Deer can legally have their wages frozen this year.
“Missing a key opportunity to boost the economy by putting more money in the pockets of the city’s lowest wage workers,” the report goes on to say.
French also highlighted that the freeze will make Alberta’s problem of severe wealth inequality even worse.
“The gap between the rich and the poor in our province is already wide,” added French. “While minimum wage workers face an effective pay cut, the richest Canadians have had their incomes grow by 8.5 per cent, so this freeze will make the wage gap even worse.”
The data shows that a high percentage of the lowest wage workers in Alberta are women.
“Women in our province are impacted the hardest by this freeze, as over sixty percent of minimum wage earners are women,” said French. “Increasing the minimum wage is one of the ways we can achieve greater gender equality.”
The majority of workers in Red Deer who earn minimum wage are women. About 3,600 employed Albertans in Red Deer earning $15 per hour or less are women, the report confirms.
Lastly, the data shows that the vast majority of minimum wage earners are adults.
“More than three quarters of minimum wage earners are over 20 years old,” said French. “Rather than the popular myth of these being young teenagers getting their first experience and seeking extra spending money, minimum wage earners are overwhelmingly adults, many of whom are barely scraping by as they try to support themselves and their families.”
More than 70 per cent (4,700) of Red Deer workers earning minimum wage are 20 years of age or older. About 3,400 are between 20 and 44 years old (52.3 per cent) and about 1,300 are over 45 (about 20 per cent).