Title:Restoring minimum wages in Canada
Subject:Employment – wage issues
Publisher:Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Place of Publication:Ottawa
Date of Publication:2011
A severe recession with its tight fiscal aftermath is not a time when one expects improvements in social policy. But there is a bright spot for one of Canada’s oldest social programs – minimum wages, which have risen substantially in recent years in every province and territory except one (British Columbia). And BC just announced an end to its lengthy freeze on the minimum wage, starting with an increase on May 1, 2011.
The national average minimum wage rose from $6.54 an hour in 1965 (in constant 2010 dollars) to a peak of $9.92 in 1976, then fell to $7.01 in 1986. But it increased again to reach $9.16 in 2010 – just 76 cents below the mid-1970s high.
The recent increase in minimum wages across Canada is due in part to the creation of poverty reduction strategies, which have focused attention on minimum wages.
The report argues that the provincial and territorial governments should – in conjunction with key actors including business, labour, experts and social groups – work together through a transparent process to define what constitutes an adequate minimum wage (e.g., equal to the poverty line, or a percentage of average earnings) and how to protect its value over time through some form of indexation (e.g., to the cost of living, or to the change in average earnings).
The report also compares minimum wages in Canada to other countries.