Living wages: one solution to working poverty

The latest living wages for Alberta confirm that affordability measures and higher wages for low income workers are needed now

14 November 2022

Every month it’s the same story. Food costs are up, rents are unaffordable, we’re bracing for record breaking utility costs this winter. These added costs have implications for all of us, but imagine you’re only making $15, $16, or even $20 per hour. Well, it means making tough choices.

Adequate employment is central to reducing poverty and a significant portion of people that live in poverty are employed full time. What’s the answer? Well, it’s complicated, but one solution is living wages.

Vibrant Communities Calgary has been publishing Calgary’s living wage since 2008 as a resource for policymakers and employers. The living wage is a proxy for the cost of living in Calgary and is determined by calculating average expenses using local costs, subtracting taxes, and adding government transfers for a given household.

$22.40 per hour is now what it takes to have a modest standard of living in Calgary. It’s more than $7 per hour more than our current minimum wage which hasn’t changed since 2018.

I know what you’re thinking, and we hear it all the time, that these are kids, living at home with their parents. The truth is about 73% of minimum wage earners are not teenagers and approximately 41% have children.

“Living wages are an important tool in figuring out what it costs to live in a city and with the current affordability crisis, it’s clear that more needs to be done to help people make ends meet. Alberta is the only province that didn’t review and raise its minimum wage in 2022 and one of the only provinces that doesn’t tie its minimum wage to the cost of living. It’s time for the government to step up and give Albertans the help they need.”

Meaghon Reid, Executive Director, Vibrant Communities Calgary

It may be time to follow the lead of provinces like B.C., who tie their minimum wage to their annual inflation rate, while also keeping in mind that small businesses have faced unprecedented challenges over the past two years and the onus shouldn’t just be on them. The intention of releasing living wages is not to add further stress to these companies, but to shed some light on what it costs to live in Calgary. Creating a community where people have an opportunity to thrive requires more than just business to step up. Affordability measures like child care subsidies, income supports, housing and rate caps on utilities are examples of approaches that governments at all levels can take that can actually bring living wages down.


  • VCC in collaboration with the Alberta Living Wage Network has published a new living wage, reflecting what it costs to live in a city like Calgary. Learn about living wages and how they’re calculated and answers to common questions.
  • The Alberta Living Wage Network is made up of community organizations, businesses and municipalities with the goal of encouraging employers and policymakers to implement a living wage and best practices across the province that would help businesses thrive and Albertans earn livable incomes.
  • Studies show that living wage employers also cut costs when it comes to hiring and training new employees. Learn more in How Living Wages Benefit Employers.

Calgary's Living Wage is $22.40

VCC in collaboration with the Alberta Living Wage Network has published a new living wage, reflecting what it costs to live in Calgary.