Ontario's women, minorities and immigrants more likely to make minimum wage: Report

Minimum wage earners more than doubled in past decade
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 10/11/2013

Ontario’s women, recent immigrants and visible minorities are most likely to gravitate toward the bottom rung of the wage scale, according to the latest report from the Wellesley Institute.

Released by the Toronto-based policy research group on Oct. 8, Who Is Working for Minimum Wage in Ontario? noted more and more of the province’s workforce earns minimum wage. For instance, the number of Ontarians earning minimum wage more than doubled between 2003 and 2011 (from 4.3 per cent to nine per cent).

Not surprisingly, young workers were more likely to make minimum wage. However, Sheila Block, the report’s lead author, said the number of adult employees (that is, workers over 25), more than doubled over the lifespan of the study.

“Many people’s image of a minimum wage worker is a teenager, perhaps at a fast food restaurant, earning some money to buy the newest smart phone. And a teenager flipping burgers is an accurate part of the picture,” she said. “But we also need to look at the rest of the picture – minimum wage is not just a youth issue.”

Whereas 39 per cent of those making minimum wage were under 25, a whopping 61 per cent earning between $10.25 and $14.25 per hour were more than 25-years-old.

As well, the number of visible minorities earning minimum wage was 47 per cent higher than the rest of the population that earns the same. About 19 per cent of recent immigrants earn the minimum wage – representing more than twice that of all employees.

Across the board, women dominated those jobs.

Block cited raising minimum wage to $14 an hour as one way to combat the ever-widening financial gap between rich and poor, men and women.

“An increase in the minimum wage will raise the floor for all Ontario employees,” she explained. “The increase will have a positive impact on those working for minimum wage and low-wage workers. The combined impact would reduce income inequality.”

Earlier this summer, Ontario’s labour ministry struck an advisory panel to address its minimum wage rubric. That includes members from management, labour and youth groups, who are expected to report back in early 2014.

Minimum wage was last raised in 2010, and currently sits at $10.25 per hour. That compares to $9.95 in Alberta, $10.25 in British Columbia and $10.45 in Manitoba, the latter of which increased this month.

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