The Nova Scotia Minister of Labour has agreed to allow the Minimum Wage Committee some greater space to review the current formula for adjusting the minimum wage, a formula which I do not think is working. The Atlantic Premiers are concerned about minimum wages in the Atlantic region and they should be. We are hovering at the low end of the scale with a minimum wage of $11 as of April 1, 2018 and many businesses are finding it hard to get workers. With Ontario’s move towards $15.00, we are afraid that many workers may just move on to greener pastures.
There is mounting evidence of the benefits that a significant increase to the minimum wage brings for workers and the broader economy. In contrast, wage stagnation dampens consumer demand, while growing income inequality takes a toll on our economy and our society as a whole.
According to some reports the Nova Scotia minimum wage of $10.85 for experienced workers is worth less than it was 40 years ago; its peak value was in 1977 ($11.14 after adjusting for inflation). The value of the minimum wage eroded in real terms by 28% between 1975 and 2002, as it failed to keep up with inflation. Despite increased productivity, workers have not been given their fair share in even in the best of economic times. Those in the top have seen their pay packets increase and so should those at the bottom.
Between 1981 and 2006, Nova Scotia’s economic growth rate (62%) outpaced Canada’s. During this time period, Nova Scotia workers’ productivity grew by 25% while their paycheques actually shrunk. As a result, income inequality has increased. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would benefit 1 in 3 Nova Scotia workers. Minimum wage workers make up 6.6% of the provincial labour force (25,595 workers). As of April 2017, Nova Scotia’s minimum wage is $10.85 per hour (for experienced workers) and $10.35 (for inexperienced workers).
I am also concerned that 125,000 people in Nova Scotia are making $15 an hour or less and that 86% of them are over 20 years old and 56% are women. We need to understand that 58% of those 125,000 work at firms that employ more than 100 workers, 7% of them are unionized and 65% work full time and almost 50% are the breadwinners in their families.
There is much work to do. Nova Scotians deserve better.