March 13, 2019

World Health Organization, Canadian Medical Association, Ontario Medical Association, Registered Nurses Association of Ontario,Toronto Public Health and many other healthcare agencies have identified poverty as the leading cause of poor health outcomes and health inequity. Inadequate minimum wage rate is a key reason that pushes working families into poverty and economic insecurity. Because of low wage rate, working poor are pressed to work over-time or juggle multiple jobs, including night shifts, and still struggle to afford healthy food, adequate housing, prescription medication, and dental and eye care. The adverse health impacts of poverty, low wage, juggling multiple jobs and working excessive hours just to make ends meet are well documented. High blood pressure, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, digestive problems, thyroid problems, cancers, and  low self-rated health. Poverty and low wage among parents has been shown to hinder brain/cognitive development in children. Working poor juggling low wage jobs may also delay accessing healthcare. These factors can lead to unnecessary health complications, increased emergency department utilization, and compounding of healthcare costs.

Why Raise the Minimum Wage?

It has been frozen in Ontario at $10.25 per hour for three years. Since 2003, the percentage of people earning minimum wage has more than doubled from 4.3% to 9%. Youth are not the only ones working minimum wage jobs. One-fifth of prime-age workers (above 25 years) are making minimum wage or very close to minimum wage. With the rising cost of living, people working full-time, full year at minimum wage earn 19% below the Low Income Measure of poverty. The Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage is calling the Ontario government to increase the minimum wage to $14 per hour, with annual increases indexed to inflation. This rate will bring minimum wage workers 10% above the poverty line. This will not only help to reduce poverty but will also lead to improved health and cost savings for Ontario’s healthcare system.  See our Letter to Premier calling for above-poverty fair wage policy


What the healthcare sector can do


Community activities have been gaining momentum with monthly days of action.  January 2014 focused on minimum wage and health. Access Alliance, Association of Ontario Health Centres, Canadian Association of Community Health Centres, and the Health Providers against Poverty are planning a number of activities to send the loudest message yet. We call for action from healthcare institutions (hospitals, Family Health Teams, CHCs, public health units, doctors in solo practice), healthcare policy makers, healthcare researchers/academics, medical/nursing/health schools to join us in this campaign. The push from the healthcare sector could be the catalyzing factor that convinces the government to raise the minimum wage above the poverty line and introduce a fair wage policy