Saskatchewan’s minimum wage goes up to $10.50 an hour starting Thursday.
The Wall government previously made the announcement of the increase in June. The new figure is up from the former $10.20 an hour.
Over the past eight years, the wage has seen eight increases. The number is reviewed annually and indexed according to a combination of the Consumer Price Index and the average hourly wage, Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan explained. He said the jump will benefit the province’s minimum wage earners, estimated to be close to 24,000 individuals.
Others aren’t so convinced.
“The 30 cents will help. I don’t think it’ll make a huge difference,” said Michael Boyd, who relies on that wage in both his part-time jobs, including at Tramp’s, a comic book, card and games store on Scarth Street in Regina.
“That’s not a lot of money. Like, I work three days a week here. I need two jobs and even then I still don’t really have money,” the 22-year-old insisted.
Morgan said the entry-level wage is comparable to other provinces like British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
“We think it’s a reasonable starting point,” the minister outlined.
In addition to automatically adjusting the wage each year, Morgan also pointed out how the province has changed the starting amount for paying income tax. He said that’s taken more than 100,000 people off the tax roll.
He believes the two initiatives are helping those who need it most in Saskatchewan.
“It’s made a significant difference for lower income people in our province.”
But even with Thursday’s hike in the minimum wage, life can still be pretty difficult for Boyd and others in a similar circumstance.
“It’s really hard to make ends meet,” said Boyd.
Unfortunately for him concessions have to be made. At some point he thinks he’ll have to find cheaper rent. Some days it’s deciding whether to skip meals.
“I find myself hungry a lot, or I’m at work, I get a half-hour break. Do I go and buy food or do I just say well, I can’t really afford food today.”
“I do think minimum wage does need to be raised a bit more. I’ve always said like around 12ish–12, 13–I think that’d be fine,” he added.
When asked about the possibility of introducing a living wage in Saskatchewan, Morgan said they’re watching what the different federal parties have to say on the issue, turning to them to see what each is proposing and what the potential costing might be.
A living wage refers to an hourly figure in which a household can meet its basic needs, somewhere between the minimum wage and average wage. The living wage for a Regina family with two working parents and two children is estimated to be a little over $16 an hour.
Morgan believes moving to a large increase could have a detrimental impact on employers while reducing the number of jobs available.
While he thinks what the province has already done is serving the workforce relatively well, the living wage possibility is something they’ll keep an eye on in the future.