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: in 2011, almost 60 percent of minimum wage workers in Ontario were between 15 and 24 years of age. Some of them are likely earning pocket money for extras, while others are likely making crucial contributions to their family’s incomes and survival.
But, we also need to look at the rest of the picture: minimum wage is not just a youth issue. Forty percent of minimum wage earners are over 25 years old. More than 1 in 10 racialized women aged 25 and over were working for minimum wage between 2009 and 2011, two and a half times the rate of the total population over 25. For women who are recent immigrants, the number is almost 1 in 5. These workers are not earning pocket money to buy a flashy new smart phone; they are trying to pay the bills for themselves and their families on $10.25 per hour.
It is also important to extend our gaze to low-wage workers in Ontario who would be affected by an increase in the minimum wage. Almost a million Ontario employees earned between $10.25 and $14.25 an hour in 2011. Sixty percent of these employees are 25 years of age and over.
The Ontario government is looking to an advisory panel for advice on setting the minimum wage. It is important that the panel keep these adult workers front and centre when they are considering their advice to the Minister of Labour. As should the province as they develop the next poverty reduction strategy.
To read more about who is earning minimum wage in Ontario, please download our new report. Who Is Working For Minimum Wage In Ontario?