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Average B.C. wage falls

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

The average wage in B.C. has fallen. (FILE PHOTO)

The average wage in B.C. has fallen. (FILE PHOTO)

Minimum wage in B.C. has caught up — rising well above 1983 levels — while the average wage has actually fallen by about the same amount. Statistics Canada published data from 1975 to 2013 on Wednesday, though data relevant for all sectors of employment is restricted to 1983 and onwards.

According to the numbers, the provincial minimum wage was $7.11 in 1983, rising to $10.25 last year in inflation-adjusted numbers.

In the same time period, the average wage fell to $23.48 last year compared to $26.13 in 1983.

Iglika Ivanova, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said both wage rates are affected by how much employers are willing to pay — typically as little as they can get away with.

However, the one category government can step in and intervene is the minimum wage, she said. That means how much a minimum-wage earner makes can disproportionately increase over time, as shown in the statistics.

“Work gets outsourced to other places where labour is cheaper — that’s what happened to the manufacturing sector, for example,” Ivanova said.

“The way the market is supposed to work is if there’s not enough workers, the wage increases. But if you bring in workers from abroad, then you’ll never raise wages.

“We haven’t quite found a solution yet.”

Bryan Yu, regional economist with Central 1 Credit Union, said it also could be how B.C. has turned into a “services-oriented” market instead of goods-producing.

“I don’t think it’s so much the case as the minimum wage goes up, we’re going to see the average go down,” he said.

“In the energy and forest side, they took a big hit in the 1990s. And we did see, obviously, declines — in the closing of saw mills and now that’s a smaller industry than it was.”


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