On October 1st the minimum wage in Alberta rose from $13.60 to $15. This is the highest in the country. It was also the fastest to rise in the history of Alberta wage increase. Now, there are a few discussions in our community about minimum wage. Most, if not all, are coming from our small community businesses. Some say that the minimum wage is bad or that it came too quickly but some say it’s good and needed by our kababayans. What they agreed on was the importance of a higher wage for the workers. But what are those opposed to it saying? “Madaming male-lay-off”, madaming business namapipilitan mag sara at tataas ang mgapresyo ng bilihin”. These are all valid and important questions. In my article last October 2017 (Demystifying Minimum Wage), I attempted to “demystify minimum wage” last year and I will try to do this one more time in this article. Many of our kababayan business owners think that this will create some kind of crisis, buying into the United Conservative Party propaganda message that “The Sky is Falling”, making it a political (or anti-NDP) issue. This issue is as basic as the right to live a decent life for the majority of working class Albertans including our kababayans that live here.
Let’s start with the statistics. In the information from Statistics Canada’s monthly Labour Force Survey that was published by Public Interest Alberta, it says:
In the period ending on June 30, 2018 there are 1,913,200 workers in the province
More than 300,000 Alberta workers will receive a raise on October 1st because of the minimum wage increase.
• 302,300 employed Albertans earn less than the incoming minimum wage of $15 per hour (15.8%).
• 359,100 earn less than $16 per hour (18.8%).
• 159,500 earn the current minimum wage of $13.60 per hour (8.3%).
More than 60 percent of workers receiving a minimum wage raise are women.
• 189,400 workers earning less than the incoming minimum wage of $15 per hour are women (62.7%).
• 100,100 workers earning the current minimum wage of $13.60 per hour are women (62.8%).
• 223,200 workers earning less than $16.00 per hour are women (62.2%).
More than three-quarters of workers receiving a minimum wage raise are 20 years of age or older.
• 233,300 are 20 years of age or older (77.2%).
• 163,300 are between 20 and 44 years old (54.0%).
• 59,300 are between 45 and 64 years old (19.6%).
• 10,700 are 65 years of age or older (3.5%).
This has already dispelled four major myths.
Myth one: Raising minimum wage is bad for the economy. FALSE. A majority of the over 1.9 million work forces is already making above $15 per hour. There are 300,000 affected by it. While it’s not even half of the workers, it would give them a chance to have a better life also so that “no one is left behind”.
Myth two: Raising the minimum wage will result in job loss. FALSE.In 2015, for example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) predicted that between 53,500 and 195,000 workers making less than $15 per hour would lose their jobs if the government of Alberta’s $15 per hour pledge would be pushed through. Similarly, last year the C.D. Howe Institute released a study that claimed that the increase would result in 25,000 job losses.
These predictions were historically never credible. In the year preceding November 2017 (the latest available data of Stats Can), Alberta’s service sector added 12,400 jobs as part of our province’s economic recovery. In 2016, while Alberta’s economy was still in recession, our service sector added 26,500 jobs. Despite the recession and the minimum wage increases from 2015 to 2017, there has been a 33% job increase.
Myth three: Most minimum wage earners are teenagers. FALSE. We do not have to look very far to know that this is not true. Many of our kababayan are minimum wage earners. We often hear friends talk about how they have two or three jobs. This is precisely because many Filipinos especially those that are and were temporary foreign workers are still making minimum wage. The Province of Alberta Minimum Wage profile published that 67.3% of Alberta minimum wage earners are not teenagers, and 17.5% are 50 and older.
Myth Four: The cost of goods and commodities will increase because of the increase of minimum wage. FALSE (generally). Yes, costs and prices rise all the time without workers receiving a pay increase; wages are just one of many factors contributing to the cost of an item.But these increases are brought about by the economic recessions and the boom and bust of our economy. So regardless of whether we’re getting minimum wage or not, we should expect an increase in the prices of commodities. Minimum wage helps the working poor leverage in our society.
The sky is not falling. It is sitting nicely where it should be.