By Anastasia Blosser and Gabriela Silva Ponte
Even though the Government of Ontario recently increased the minimum wage to $16.55 per hour, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) students say they don’t feel like it is enough.
According to a press release, the province’s minimum wage rose 6.8 per cent from $15.50 as of Oct. 1. This percentage increase matches the annual change in the prices Canadians paid for goods and services according to Statistics Canada.
Following the increase, the province now holds the second highest minimum wage in Canada. Yukon’s wage is the highest, sitting at $16.77 per hour.
“[This increase will help] more than 900,000 hard-working [people] across our province earn more take-home pay for themselves and their families,” the press release, attributed to the minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development David Piccini, read.
But first-year computer science student Hibba Syed, who works in retail at her local mall, said this increase will not make affording living any easier.
“I don’t think that makes much of a difference because I feel like that’s still not a livable wage for [someone] that actually works full time,” she said.
“I’m only paying for school and transportation, which is what I have my job for, but I don’t think I’m making enough for that even,” Syed added.
Third-year computer engineering student Vincent Tat also doesn’t think minimum wage is enough to support a student living in Toronto. He said most of the money he makes as a cashier goes toward tuition, transit fees and other costs incurred as a student.
“With the raise, I think it should help a [small amount] in the long run,” he said.
First-year graphic communications management student Ciel Ben-Adi, who is originally from upstate New York, said she’s looking for a job in Toronto.
“I’ll be able to pay for more of my groceries with less assistance from my parents [with the increase],” they said.
“I think Toronto is much more expensive than where I came from and it’s definitely been a shift, especially with the difference in currency,” Ben-Adi added.
Maurice Mazerolle, the former director of the centre for labour management relations at the Ted Rogers School of Management, said the increase in minimum wage will affect students positively and negatively.
Full time minimum wage employees could earn an extra $168 every month but smaller businesses sometimes try to pass their increased costs onto consumers, he explained.
“Some things may end up costing a bit more because of having to pay more for wages,” he said.
Mazerolle also said that minimum wage doesn’t reflect the true cost of living in most communities.
According to the Ontario Living Wage Network, the living wage for the Greater Toronto Area is $23.15 per hour. When analysts Anne Coleman and Robin Shaban calculated this number, their budgets went beyond physical necessities to include activities that increased the quality of life, such as adult education courses, modest vacations, extracurriculars and cultural outings.
Mazerolle said new studies are disproving longstanding ideas of minimum wage increases.
“The argument has always been that if you increase wages, you decrease jobs…[but] research has shown that that is not accurate,” he said.
Mazerolle explained that there are documented examples of minimum wage increases resulting in more jobs and more money in the local economy. He also said if employers paid higher wages, it would reduce the labour shortage in service and hospitality industries.
“It’s not a job destroyer, despite what all the employers will tell you.”