As of Saturday, the province’s minimum wage of $9.50 will be the lowest in the country, while Alberta’s minimum wage will increase to $9.75, leaving Saskatchewan in last place.
How relevant these numbers are as indicators of Saskatchewan’s economic health and its resident’s quality of life is up for debate.
Lihui Zhang is an assistant professor with the Johnson-Shoyama Policy School at the University of Regina. She explains that in a growing economy, the “price floor” set by the government may not play as big a role as it does in an economy that’s slowing down.
“In a strong economy,” she explains, “where there is excess demand for low-skilled labour, the market wage in this segment of the labour market may be well above the stipulated minimum wage, thus it becomes less relevant.”
“The government may not feel the immediate urgency to revisit the legislation,” she adds.
According to a press release issued Thursday by Economy Minister Bill Boyd, the more important indicator is the average weekly wage, which rose 6.6 per cent in June.
But Peter Gilmer of the Anti-Poverty Ministry believes that the minimum wage is a relevant number, and that it should be higher.
“We’ve long held the position that minimum wage should be an actual living wage that’s set above the poverty line for a single person working full time,” says Gilmer. “Given the wealth in the province, no one should have to work for poverty wages.”
Gilmer says that the Anti-Poverty Ministry is concerned about the growing number of working poor who have been seeking out the help of his organization. “The cost of living (in Saskatchewan) has been rising rapidly, in particular for basic needs. We really do need to have a significant increase in the minimum wage to help low income wage earners keep pace.”