On January 1, 2018, the government of Ontario imposed a dramatic increase to minimum wage, unlike anything the province has experienced before. Overnight, the minimum wage rose from $11.60 per hour to $14 per hour; and wages will rise again, to $15 per hour, in January 2019.
This wage hike has sparked heated debates and a polarizing response from the public: on one hand, there is a belief that the increase will raise 30% of people – those who are currently earning minimum wage – out of poverty and enable them to spend more money, which will boost the economy overall. On the other hand, there is an argument that vulnerable employees – including young people and unskilled workers – will have their hours reduced, benefits clawed back, or lose their jobs altogether. As well, businesses affected by the increase will potentially increase their prices to cover the additional costs associated with the wage hike.
With the debate still striking back and forth, where does this leave Ontario seniors? How is the new minimum wage hike impacting them?
With conflicting information about the provincial wage hike swirling around, it is important to understand who the people are that will be affected the most: the minimum wage earners themselves.
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According to a report published by Maclean’s, older workers, those aged 55 and older, make up the “fastest growing age cohort of workers.” Canada is witnessing a flood of senior workers entering the job market and many of them are earning minimum wage.
Business owners are undoubtedly affected by the increases in minimum wage and consumers are experiencing the fallout of this in the form of higher prices for goods and services. According to a report published by the Huffington Post, “the cost of eating at a restaurant in Ontario has spiked the most in decades” since the wage hike was introduced in January. Also, “the price index for restaurant food in the province jumped by 1.9% in January,” which is the most since 1991, and nearly double the rate of any other province.
Home services, such as housekeeping and home maintenance have also seen an increase, with “prices rising by 5.9% in the space of a month,” the Huffington Post reports. For seniors, affordable food programs and home assistance are crucial to their ability to live at home safely and independently. With many seniors living on a fixed income, the increase in cost of goods and services will impact them greatly.
However, not all businesses will raise their prices to accommodate the minimum wage increase. According to Armine Yalnizyan, Vice President of the Canadian Association for Business Economics, “some businesses will pass on the cost through price hikes. Others won’t, because they know by keeping prices low they can attract bigger market share and grow their top line.”
While the increase in minimum wage may seem hurried and rushed to some, the fact of the matter is, it simply absorbs the rising cost of food, housing transportation and other basic human needs. Ontario’s minimum wage previously fell far short of all living wage calculations across the province, and is only now at the level that can lift full-time workers out of poverty.
An article published by the Toronto Star reports that 53 economic experts from across Canada claim the move “makes good economic sense and could generate substantial benefit to low-wage workers, their families’ and the economy as a whole.”
While seniors in Ontario may experience a rise in the price of some good and services, not all businesses will pass along the additional cost to consumers. In the long run, the increase in minimum wage will be beneficial to seniors who are working, or are interested in re-entering the workforce at a minimum wage salary.
What do you think about the minimum wage increase in Ontario? Will it impact you or Ontario seniors in your family? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.