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Yukon increasing minimum wage but some say it's still not enough

The minimum wage in the Yukon is increasing, but advocates and government representatives agree that it still isn't a living wage. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The minimum wage in the Yukon is increasing, but advocates and government representatives agree that it still isn't a living wage. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Yukoners working a minimum wage job will soon see a few more dollars on their paycheques.

Currently the territory's minimum wage is set at $16.77 per hour. As of April 1, it will be increased by $0.82 bringing it up to an hourly rate of $17.59.

In a press release the Government of Yukon said the increase is based on the 2023 Consumer Price Index for Whitehorse, which is 4.9 per cent.

The consumer price index measures the average change in costs that consumers encounter.

It also said that "a minimum wage tied to inflation, as with other social supports, aims to help reduce poverty, increase affordability and address income inequality across the territory."

The train tracks into Carcross. The White Pass and Yukon Route railway didn't make the trip this year.
The train tracks into Carcross. The White Pass and Yukon Route railway didn't make the trip this year.

In the town of Carcross, population of about 317, the median total income of an individual in 2020 was $43,200. According to the Yukon's bureau of statistics less than three per cent of the territory's residents only earn minimum wage. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Some Yukoners said the increase is a good thing, but they don't think it will reduce poverty, or increase affordability in the territory.

Watson Lake resident Erin Labonte calls herself a "temporary community worker."

"I've worked in just about every business in my community," she told CBC News in a recent interview.

"I do catering gigs and stuff like that. My bare minimum is $25 an hour. If you are looking for anybody with any kind of experience what-so-ever anything under $20 an hour is embarrassing."

She said the cost of living in the Yukon is rising, and the minimum wage should reflect that.

Labonte shared she recently saw an ad to rent a single room in Whitehorse for $1,200 a month.

She said it's hard to believe anyone working a minimum wage job, even with the increase, would be able to afford rent like that and pay for groceries, and personal bills, let alone extra curricular activities.

Hidden Valley resident Margaret Dumkee echoed Labonte's feelings.

"People should be paid equitably and fairly for the work that they're doing," she said. "It should allow them to meet the minimum cost of living."

Dumkee said any increase is a good move but said she doesn't think it will make living in the Yukon any more affordable.

"I think it will help," she told CBC News.

"It will mean some people will need to work a little bit less in order to cover their costs ... but I don't think it's going to mean people can afford to live in Whitehorse."

Minimum wage differs from living wage

Karyn Leslie is the director of employment standards for the Government of Yukon.

She said the minimum wage doesn't necessarily provide a living wage but is the legal minimum wage all employers must pay their employees.

"It provides a minimum rate for people entering the labour market with limited or no skills," she told CBC News.

She said according to the Yukon's bureau of statistics less than three per cent of Yukoners earn only minimum wage. She said data shows around 2.7 percent. The rest earn above that.

"We do have the report from the Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition," she said. "That identified the living wage rate at as I believe $21.04 per hour. So there is a bit of a discrepancy there but the minimum wage rate increase is based on the Consumer Price Index."

Leslie also noted that Yukon's minimum wage is among the highest in Canada.

"The Yukon now actually has the second highest minimum wage in the country after Nunavut," she said. "The minimum wage will continue to increase at a rate that reflects inflation, [and[ reflects the costs that Yukoners are encountering over time."

'Not enough'

Kristina Craig is the executive director of the Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition.

She said the increase to the minimum wage is great but it's just not enough.

"The living wage for 2023 was $20.04 per hour for a family of four with both income earners making that wage," she said. "So basically if you were a single person you might need to be making over forty dollars an hour."

"For people who are making less than a living wage or are facing increased taxes," she said, "or are facing increased costs of anything whether its your utilities, or your food, or rent, it is a lot."

Craig said along with increasing the minimum wage to make living in the Yukon affordable the government should consider looking into policies around rent capping among other things.

"I don't think any government is very likely to suggest that they are ever going to raise a minimum wage to a living wage," she said. "But we do see across the country that there is a recognition that everywhere needed at least a fifteen dollar minimum wage."

"Now if you look across the country, most jurisdictions have increased their minimum wage. So it's one tool. It's good that it's indexed and we look forward to continuing to work with governments to figure out ways to make life more affordable in the territory."