living wage ontario

Here's how much you actually need to earn per hour to live in Toronto

Ontario may finally be raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour, but advocates say that this amount is far from enough to cover the actual cost of living pretty much anywhere in the province. Especially in Toronto.

A report released this week by The Ontario Living Wage Network (OLWN), which calculates and tracks how much it costs on average to cover basic expenses in different communities, states that inflation has quadrupled since the beginning of 2019 and is now at an 18-year high.

It's not only homes that are skyrocketing in price; gas, groceries and other basic necessities are getting more expensive too — a trend that's expected to continue until global supply chains return to normal.

This in mind, the hsd network re-calculated its previous living wage estimates to more accurately "reflect the realities of costs in Ontario" right now.

"Our 2021 calculations now take into account a weighted average between a family of four, single parent with one child and a single adult," wrote the OLWN when announcing the new rates on Monday.

"These 2021 living wage rates reflect changing demographics in our province and increases in inflation."

In Toronto, the average living wage turned out to be $22.08 an hour — the highest in the province, followed by Halton Region at $20.75. The lowest, and thus closest to provincial minimum wage, was Sault Ste. Marie at $16.20, followed by Thunder bay at $16.30.

So what does this actually mean? What's a "living wage" and how does it differ from the minimum?

By the OWLN's definition, minimum wage is simply the legislated minimum all employers must pay. A living wage, on the other hand, is what someone would need to earn per hour in order to meet the following expenses:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Transportation
  • Childcare
  • Medical expenses
  • Recreation
  • A modest vacation

Living wages do not account for retirement savings, debt repayment, home ownership, education savings or anything else not listed above save for "the smallest cushion for emergencies or hard times."

The rate is calculated for each community based on the needs of a family of four with two parents each working full-time, full-year.

"It would also support a family throughout the life cycle so that young adults are not discouraged from having children and older workers have some extra income as they age," writes the OLWN.

"Employees that earn a living wage can face fewer of these stressors; employers that pay a living wage can be confident they are not keeping their employees in poverty."

Advocates for a basic living wage, while happy to see some sort of improvement, are slamming the Ford government for merely raising the new minimum to $15.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias, who heads the largest private sector union in Canada, was invited to speak at Premier Doug Ford's press conference about the minimum wage hike on Tuesday morning.

Acknowledging that the province's latest minimum wage increase is "incredibly important," Dias noted that his teams are still pressing government officials on the topic of a living wage. 

"We're talking to them about a living wage and the government is understanding that minimum living wage in Ontario will move from $16.20 in London to $22 an hour, of course in Toronto," said Dias.

"So that's why we are saying and recognizing that today is a good start. Because there's still so much work to do."

Lead photo by

Suhail Akhtar

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