Premier Wynne gets the facts wrong about minimum wage earners in Ontario
When the Ontario government announced its plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour last month, Premier Kathleen Wynne made a glaringly false statement about the reality of minimum wage earners. Specifically, she said:
“Millions of workers in Ontario are finding it almost impossible to support their families on a minimum wage that just doesn’t go far enough.”
Let’s clarify the facts.
For starters, Ontario has 633,000 minimum wage earners in the province—not “millions,” as Premier Wynne claims. There’s not a slight difference between reality and what the premier claims. At the very least, we’re talking about an overstatement of more than three times—or 216 per cent!
But who are these 633,000 minimum wage earners in Ontario and are they actually struggling to support their families on a minimum wage job, as Premier Wynne suggests?
Thankfully, they generally are not.
According to Statistics Canada data, most minimum wage earners in Ontario are not the primary or sole earner in their household. In fact, 60 per cent are teenagers or youth aged 15 to 24, the vast majority of which (86 per cent) live with their parents or other relatives.
Another 19 per cent of minimum wage earners in Ontario are married with employed spouses, nearly all (90 per cent) of whom earn more than the minimum wage or are self-employed.
Just two per cent of minimum wage earners in Ontario are single parents with a young child.
Given all this, it shouldn’t be surprising that the vast majority of minimum wage workers—85 per cent, in fact—do not live in low-income households, as defined by Statistics Canada’s low income cut-off, a common measure of low income.
Yet even though most minimum wage earners in Ontario do not belong to households classified as low-income by Statistics Canada, some may still think raising the minimum wage is a good idea because it could help many low-wage workers make ends meet. But as we’ve written before, and despite good intentions, it is not. And that’s because of unintended consequences from the policy that reduce employment opportunities for the most vulnerable and least-skilled workers.
When you combine the facts on who actually earns the minimum wage—generally not people who are primary or sole breadwinners in their families—with the negative consequences on employment for the least-skilled workers, it becomes abundantly clear that the minimum wage is an ineffective policy for helping the most vulnerable.
Premier Wynne should get her facts straight.