A direct approach to easing suburban poverty would seem to be found in wages. If suburban poverty is about precarious employment in dispersed, lower wage jobs, thin transportation resources, weak access to social services, and lack of affordable and appropriate housing options then why wouldn’t wages be a good place to start? In the UK a movement for living wages is edging into the national debate just as the country appears poised for brutal austerity and economic contraction which will be very difficult for the poor. Certainly, the idea of living wages has been kicking around social policy circles in most developed countries for decades and perhaps the economic craziness of the last few years has brought it forward.
In Canada, we see British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University adopt living wages as a specific policy …and finding itself able to afford to do so. It seems a sensible argument can be made that living wages are good for people and what is good for people is good for business. The very idea of a minimum wage is simply obsolete. Not only can few live on them but business interests and their lobbyists, at least in English-speaking countries, tend to take offence to notions of raising minimum wages. It’s harder to argue against living wages, which are an expression of justice in an age where a job doesn’t protect you from being poor.
CBC’s The National visited Hamilton, ON in 2012 to look at what a transition from minimum to living wages might mean. That clip, and other material, is available on the Living Wage Hamilton site.
Beyond the Bottom Line: Challenges and Opportunities of the Living Wage
77-page .pdf file resolutionfoundation.org January 2013
image: Bundesarkiv via Wikimedia Commons