THOMPSON: Time to adopt a new definition of ‘living wage’ | iINFOnews



January 10, 2022 – 12:00


How about is a living wage? Is it $ 15 an hour? $ 20? Following? It is not a topic that most of us think about too long or too often. I mean, beyond our concern for what we earn personally – or what our loved ones earn – it’s often not a primary consideration.

What is a living wage anyway? Well, it probably depends on who you ask. I doubt, for example, that socialist revolutionary Karl Marx, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and John Kenneth Galbraith, Canada’s most famous economist – all smart people – would be in the same zip code okay. on the definition of a living wage.

Most of us relate what hamburger fins paid for today versus what we were paid for our first jobs. In such cases, both our memories and our willingness to give a sucker a break… well, let’s say we’re usually not up to the task.

In our memories, we were all excellent workers in that first job… especially us, the elderly. Fortunately, most of our early bosses are deceased… their outlook would likely be different from ours. Good or bad though… we’ve never missed a payday.

And sadly, maybe it’s a bit of human nature that we often don’t want those who follow us to have such a good – and certainly not better – shot on life… let alone the good life. I’ve heard countless people say things like, “I don’t want to (fill in the blank with an Okanagan town) grow up! Now, put that wall up now that I’m here.

If you like a place … there’s a good chance others will like it. There were only 11 million people living in Florida when I graduated from high school there in 1968… now there are 22 million. Hmmm… who knew a lot of people would love the palm trees, the sun, the warm weather and golf and boating all year round?

But back to what makes a living wage. Perhaps this conundrum – and it is – should consider both the human component and the purely digital component associated with where you live. I mean, who determines what “living” is? Where on the continuum between poverty and wealth do we identify what life is… and therefore, what is a living wage?

Economists and government officials use various “living wage calculators” to try to solve this conundrum … the most widely used is devised by Amy Glasmeier, professor of economic geography and regional planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The teacher takes into account factors such as the number of children and adults working in a household, the cost of housing, child care, transportation, health care costs, food and other recurring expenses , such as cleaning and laundry supplies.

Guess the professors at MIT make… well, a pretty good “living wage”… not like the salary she offers, you know… the others. Guess she probably dines on occasion, buys gifts for family and friends, puts some aside for retirement, and keeps a slush fund for that inevitable auto repair or a long weekend at a time complex. in time.

But neither his “living wage calculator” nor any other sees any of these real expenses as a necessity. Since when is saving for a rainy day or paying off debt a luxury? The professor’s calculator added cell phone and internet charges this year in a concession on how people actually live today. Maybe we should call them “hard love calculators?” “

It would not be fair to write about “living wage” and not include what companies pay their top executives. Consider a single executive in every public company… the CEO… or the CEO.

In 1980, my boss, Irv Shapiro, president and CEO of Du Pont, was earning a base salary of $ 865,000, plus bonuses and stock options… which doubled his compensation to around 1.7 million. dollars … the equivalent today of about $ 6 million.

Last year, the CEOs of the 350 largest companies in the United States made – on average – an annual compensation of $ 24.2 million each. This was up 18.9% from 2019 … an increase during the pandemic when many workers – even those in the 350 largest companies – actually lost their wages … or their jobs.

The CEO realized that compensation – what he actually received – between 1980 and 2020 increased by 1,322%… better than S & P’s stock market growth of 817%. Earnings Realized – The “living wage” for the average worker during these years has increased by 18.9 percent… less than half a percent per year.

Things are not getting better in Canada. By noon this Tuesday, January 4 – the first official working day of the year – each CEO of Canada’s top 100 companies had earned what the average Canadian earns all year … $ 53,482.

There are all kinds of arguments put forward by political ideologues as to why workers cannot earn a “living wage”… Nobel Prize winning economists say this is wrong… but politicians say otherwise… I wonder who is right ?

Shouldn’t a successful business pay workers a living wage? Maybe those who can’t shouldn’t be in business… survival of the fittest. Doesn’t that sound harder than expecting someone to make $ 10 an hour alive with an annual income of $ 20,800?

Oh, before I suggest that today’s workers aren’t as productive as they were in the past… well, that’s not true either. Wage stagnation is due to the tendency to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few within companies … rather than lower productivity, according to three living economists who won a Nobel Prize.

We may disagree on the kind of life that a “living wage” would make possible. But, honestly, isn’t it fair that those who look after our kids, deliver our packages, and wait for us in the stores aren’t doing enough to take their families out to dinner once a month, and I’m talking fast food. Forget about saving for those golden years of retirement or future vacations, they can’t afford a decent life today.

My point is… this is a discussion we need to have as members of society. Leaving the well-being of our fellow citizens in the hands of university professors and politicians has not provided a “living wage” to those living on the brink … or those already on the edge of the cliff. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what salary allows you to live rather than exist?

– Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and Florida. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Don has worked as a journalist, speechwriter and CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. Passionate and compassionate man, he enjoys writing as much as good dinners accompanied by great wines.

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