Whitehorse living wage highest on record, says non-profit

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition has determined that the hourly rate Whitehorse households must earn to meet basic needs has risen by 15 per cent since 2022, making this year’s calculation the highest on record. 

Based on data from Statistics Canada, the non-profit determined that the average household requires two adults working full-time and making $21.04 per hour to cover their basic expenses. Basic costs listed in the report include housing, transportation, food, and clothing. 

“What we’re trying to get at with this calculation is a very, very conservative estimate of the cost of living,” said Kendall Hammond, the report’s author. “It doesn’t account for going to restaurants, vacations. It’s very bare bones, and it’s still dramatically higher than the minimum wage.” 

Yukon’s minimum wage increased this past April from $15.70 per hour to $16.77 per hour, but it’s still more than four dollars short of the figure the non-profit says is needed. Hammond says the gap is an indication of how much Whitehorse residents are struggling. 

“It’s a measure of how hard it is to get by,” he said. “And we’re finding that it’s quite hard.” 

Data revealed that the annual cost of groceries in particular has risen exponentially in Whitehorse since 2022. 

“Food costs went up by over 13 per cent,” said Hammond. “So that was huge, that’s the biggest increase in a single year I’ve ever seen.”

But the cost of groceries wasn’t the only expense weighing on Yukon residents over the past year. The cost of transportation and housing also showed dramatic increases. The average Whitehorse resident now spends more than 35 per cent of their income on housing. 

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition’s living wage report has been released every year since 2016. The effort is part of a national project coordinated by non-profit Living Wage Canada. The organization has created a standardized methodology for determining living wages across the country.

The goal of the report is not just to figure out how much residents are struggling. It’s also intended to be a measure of the strength of local public policy. The idea is that the more services a municipality offers, the lower the average private wage worker must earn to support a bare-minimum standard of living.

Hammond explains that things like subsidized public transit and public childcare help lower the living wage. He says as costs continue to rise, more social services and significant policy changes are needed to help address Whitehorse’s affordability crisis. 

“Without urgent action, we’re on track to see a substantial increase in the cost of living for 2024,” said Hammond. 

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