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Economy

In 2022, what’s a fair living wage in the Northwest Territories?


Alternatives North says hourly wages needed to live in the Northwest Territories have decreased slightly since 2019 but are still well above the territory’s minimum wage. 

The non-profit released its living wage report for 2022 on Wednesday, which calculates the minimum hourly wage workers need to be paid for a decent standard of living in larger NWT communities. 

According to the latest report, the living wage for a parent in a family of four is estimated at $23.28 an hour in Yellowknife, $21.32 in Hay River, $22.59 in Inuvik, and $17.81 in Fort Smith.

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The rates are based on the “bare-bones budget” of a family with one child in full-time care, one child in elementary school, and each parent working 37.5 hours a week.

This year’s rates show a slight decrease from Alternatives North’s last report in 2019.

At that time, the same family-of-four living wage was calculated as $23.95 per hour for a parent in Yellowknife, $24.75 in Hay River, and $23.78 in Inuvik. That report did not include a living wage for Fort Smith. 

A graph from the report shows the living wage for different types of households.
A chart from the report shows the difference between the proposed living wage and minimum wage for different types of households.

Alternatives North said the drop is due to decreased costs resulting from additional government transfers and changes to the tax structure. That includes the Canada Child Benefit, NWT Child Benefit, NWT Cost of Living Offset, and GST.

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Yet the report points out Alternatives North’s estimated living wage is still well above the territory’s actual minimum wage, which was increased to $15.20 an hour last year.

“We continue to be faced with the need to either raise wages, decrease costs or increase subsidies,” Suzette Montreuil of Alternatives North said. 

The territory’s minimum wage is reviewed every two years by a committee of representatives from business, labour and community organizations.

The report states that shelter continues to be the top expense for NWT households, with the highest costs in Yellowknife. Food and childcare are among the top three expenses for households.

Alternatives North said earning a living wage can ease the stress of meeting basic expenses, prevent having to take on additional work, and means more time for family and community.

The living wage is not a formal measure in territorial legislation and cannot be enforced, unlike the minimum wage, but Alternatives North said paying a living wage increases employee retention, means people needn’t rely as heavily on social supports, and means residents contribute more in taxes.

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