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Central Okanagan  

The cost of living in the Okanagan

The average family of four needs to bring in a wage of nearly $72,000 a year to make ends meet within the Central Okanagan.

That's the conclusion of the second annual calculation of the Central Okanagan Living Wage. It works out to a yearly increase of more than $600, over figures released in 2011.

According to the calculation, in order to meet the most basic needs to keep them out of extreme poverty, each adult in a two parent, two children household, must be employed full-time and earn at least $17.17 per hour.

Based on the average work week of 35 hours with a combined hourly wage of $34.34, the family of four would need to earn $1,201 a week and $62,498 per year.

In 2011, the per/person hourly wage was $16.98 or $61,807 a year.

Regional District Social Development Coordinator, Christine Walsh, hopes the release of the document will generate dialogue and action around creative ways to help families meet outstanding needs.

"The Living Wage reflects the actual cost of living in a community and shouldn't be confused with the minimum wage;  which is a minimum rate of pay legislated by the provincial government," says Walsh.

"Our Living Wage calculation includes expenses such as food, rent, transportation, child care and education expenses - all considered the basic needs of any family. Government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies are also included in the calculations."

Walsh says other costs such as debt repayment, entertainment, special care of a relative, cigarette smoking and saving for or acquiring home ownership were not included.

Using the calculations, a family of four living on the Living Wage line would only have $9.48 left over for savings, after a 12 month period.

The expense break down:

  1. Shelter makes up the largest portion of a yearly wage at 25.3%
  2. Child care is at 21.4%
  3. Food is at 14.6%

"The Living Wage calculation provides employers with some insight as to the economic realities of the costs to live in the Central Okanagan," says Economic Development Director, Robert Fine.

"Many Central Okanagan employers are creatively embracing this kind of investment in their workers which pays dividends by reducing turnover and training costs and building employee loyalty, dedication and improved customer service."

Walsh adds that, considering the median annual family income in 2009 was $67,070 and as family needs to earn at least $62,500 to meet basic necessities, it's important communities explore additional ideas to not only help families get by, but opportunities to get ahead.

"There's so much more that engaged communities, employers and individuals can do to help each other reduce financial and related stress as well as investing in our workplaces and communities," says Walsh.

"We all have a role to play in recognizing and supporting efforts that enable more people to participate in and enjoy our quality of life."

According to figures from other communities around the province, Vancouver has the highest Living Wage at $19.14 per adult followed by Victoria at $18.07.

Residents in Kamloops require a higher hourly wage, ($17.95), than the Central Okanagan.

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