Danielle van Jaarsveld, professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Sauder School of Business, was appointed the new chair of the Fair Wages Commission in October 2018  and is now leading the Commission in the study on living wages.

Read about what’s guiding the Commision’s work as they undertake the engagement process:

“The Fair Wages Commission is an independent commission advising the British Columbia Ministry of Labour on strategies to address the discrepancy between the minimum wage and a living wage in our province. In principle, a “living wage” differs from a minimum wage because a living wage is “a measure of income that allows an employee a basic but socially acceptable standard for living” (Eurofound, 2018, p. 1). A living wage is generally higher than a minimum wage because it considers what earners in a family need to bring home based on the actual costs of living in a specific community.

The original intent of the minimum wage was to “provide protection and fair treatment for workers” (Cohen, Limpright & Peacock, 2018: p. 6). The absence of ongoing regular increases in the minimum wage, as was the case in British Columbia between 2002 and 2010, undermines the ability of the minimum wage to deliver on these goals, contributing to increases in income inequality and wage stagnation. If wages fail to keep pace with increases in the cost of living, the workforce, especially those who earn a minimum wage, will be unable to meet their basic needs. Recognizing these challenges, some employers in British Columbia including the City of New Westminster, the City of Vancouver, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, the United Way, and Vancity have adopted a living wage.

Several approaches exist for calculating a living wage (Luce, 2004). While some communities develop their own living wage calculation, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, BC Office (CCPA-BC) led the development of a methodology that is now in use to calculate a living wage for communities in British Columbia and across Canada (Harris, Janmaat, Evans, & Carlaw, 2018). This methodology reflects the “hourly rate of pay” necessary for a household with two children and two parents who work full-time to cover its living expenses after factoring in government transfers and government deductions such as the recent reduction in MSP premiums in British Columbia (Richards, Cohen, Klein & Littman, 2008; Ivanova, Klein & Raithby, 2018).

Against this backdrop, the Fair Wages Commission welcomed input on the living wage to broaden our understanding of diverse perspectives on this topic. We will use this information to inform our advice to the British Columbia Ministry of Labour on strategies to address the discrepancy between the minimum wage and the living wage in our province.”


Cohen, M., Limpright, I., and K. Peacock. (2018). The transition to a $15 minimum wage and subsequent increases. BC Fair Wages Commission Report to the Minister of Labour (First Report).

Eurofound (2018). Concept and practice of a living wage, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Harris, L., Janmaat, J., Evans, M., & Carlaw, K. (2018). Negotiating the frame for a living wage in Revelstoke, British Columbia: An econ-anthropological approach. Human Organization, 77(3), 202-213.

Ivanova, I., Klein, S., & Raithby, T. (2018). Working for a living wage 2018: Making paid work meet basic family needs in Metro Vancouver. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, BC Office.

Luce, S. (2004). Fighting for a living wage. Cornell University Press.