More than 17 per cent of people working in the Grande Prairie, Peace River and Athabasca region of the province make less than $15 an hour. That’s the minimum wage the province has committed to by 2018, and research by Public Interest Alberta shows that 19,000 people in the area would see an increase. 8,200 of those are making less than $12.20 an hour, which is what the minimum wage will increase to on October 1st.
According to Statistics Canada, almost three-quarters of this area’s low wage workers are 20 years of age or older. Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French argues this goes against what most people envision.
“The image of a teenager living in their parents’ basement and working just to earn extra spending money is not the reality for most low-wage workers in Medicine Hat,” said French. “Most of these workers are in their prime earning years and are at the stage where they are planning for or are already supporting families.”
Nearly 63 per cent of low wage workers in the region are women. Executive Director of the Alberta College of Social Workers Lynn Labrecque King says this shows that increasing the minimum wage will lessen gender inequality in the province.