Joel French, Public Interest Alberta executive director, spoke earlier this year at a Revenue Reno campaign discussion at Red Deer College. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Minimum wage increase to benefit Red Deer workers

Minimum wage to rise on Oct. 1

In the Red Deer area 8,700 workers will see a bump in their wages when the minimum wage increases to $15 an hour on Oct. 1.

They are among the more than 302,000 Albertans — nearly one in six workers — earning less than $15 an hour, according to new data from Statistics Canada that Public Interest Alberta released on Wednesday.

Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, said 18.6 per cent of Red Deer area workers earn less than $15 an hour which is higher than the provincial average of 15.8 per cent.

“It’s not hugely different, but still I think fairly significant. The percentage of low-wage workers is higher in Red Deer than most other parts of the province,” French said.

Only the Medicine Hat area was higher at 25.5 per cent. The Athabasca/Grande Prairie area had the lowest percentage at 14.1.

“As the minimum wage is going up to $15 per hour I think it’s important to talk about impact on workers, the positive impact it has, for those who are getting raises. These are people who are trying to scrap by. They are working as hard as they can. Lots of them are making less than $15 an hour at not just one job, but at multiple jobs.”

Information from Statistic Canada’s monthly labour force survey shows that of the Red Deer area’s 8,700 low-wage earners there are 4,800, or 10.2 per cent, who earn the current minimum wage of $13.60, and 3,900 workers, or 8.4 per cent, earning less than $15 but more than $13.60.

Nearly two-thirds of Red Deer-area workers in line for a wage increase are 20 years old or older.

Statistics show:

  • 3,600 workers, or 41.4 per cent, are between 20 and 44 years old.
  • 1,500 workers, or 17.2 per cent, are between 45 and 64 years old.
  • 500 workers, or 5.7 per cent, are 65 years of age or older.

French said across the province more than three-quarters of workers who will receive the minimum wage raise are 20 years old and older. One of the big myths is that most of them are teenagers who want extra money.

“To me it’s always shocking the number of people in this category that are adults.”

Statistics also show that in Alberta 62.7 per cent of those earning less than $15 are women. But in the Red Deer area it’s 51.7 per cent — the lowest among the seven regions compared.

“When it comes to gender equality, Red Deer is actually not doing as bad,” French said.

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