By Medicine Hat News on October 2, 2019.
Medicine Hat still has the highest percentage of low wage workers of any major centre in Alberta, according to a new workforce study compiled by Public Interest Alberta.
While the local ratio is dropping, the gap between the local economy and elsewhere in Alberta is growing.
Each year the left-leaning think-tank releases a survey of wage levels in the province. It says that with increased inflation and no changes to minimum amounts this year, one in eight Albertans who earn minimum, have less earning power.
The number in Medicine Hat is one in five.
“(It is a) small pay cut this year, and if it continues over time, it will result in a big pay cut to the lowest wage workers who are already struggling,” said Joel French, the group’s executive director. “We’re missing a key opportunity to put more money into the pockets of Alberta’s lowest wage workers. A raise for them would not only boost our economy, but would also allow more people to live with dignity and security.”
The new United Conservative government has halted increases to minimum wage after it rose steeply in the last four years, and introduced a reduced wage for those under 18 and in school of $13 per hour as an incentive to employers to employ and train more young workers.
Figures gleaned from Statistics Canada’s employment reports state that at June 30 of this year, 20 per cent of workers in the Medicine Hat earned minimum wage, with three quarters of those above the age of 20.
That overall percentage is actually lower than in 2018 when one-quarter of Medicine Hat workforce earned a raise when the minimum wage was increased to $15 by the previous New Democrat government.
But it’s still much higher than other centres in the province.
The same figure in Lethbridge and Red Deer is 13.9 per cent, and the gap widens when compared against economic regions of Grande Prairie (11.6 per cent), Wood Buffalo (8.5 per cent), Calgary (12.8) and Edmonton (15.7).
Overall the report states that of nearly 2 million working Albertans, about 250,000, or 12.5 per cent, earned the minimum wage.
Locally, about 60 per cent of the low-wage workers, or 3,700, were women.
In total 6,200 employees in a local workforce of 29,000 workers earned $15 per hour or the lower teenage wage.