A “living wage” is simply a higher rate of pay than the minimum. A living wage has two supporting parts: “first” has to be an affordable housing fund that includes long-term government support; and “second” has to be a robust social and economic infrastructure.
In 1996, the now world-renowned labour economist Richard Florida was warning of a profound shift in the nature of work: unions, once the backbone of labor unions, had declined drastically. Large numbers of workers were disappearing. And, eventually, workers were shifting to part-time and self-employment, often without benefits, because of low wages, under the premise that as long as the working conditions weren’t disastrous, and they didn’t have to kill themselves to do so, they would find what might seem a fairly tolerable substitute for full-time work.
In Ontario, a minimum wage in the city of Toronto is $14.50, which in fact is the second highest hourly rate in the entire country. If you take into account the $3.50 in GST to be added on, it still comes in far above the other surrounding cities, including Windsor and Kitchener. The low rate in Toronto means that comparatively low-skill earners, the very individuals who need the most support, aren’t able to rent out a bedroom and send money back to their families for pennies.
One of the contributing factors to the decline of traditional forms of employment has been the rise of the gig economy: finding work via an app or somewhere else that requires minimal work effort, even as it upsets everything that they used to know about the work place, becoming a precarious kind of work that the very private-sector employer loves to exploit.