Lethbridge Opinion

Lethbridge workers are the lowest paid in Alberta

Not only is Lethbridge tied for the lowest paid workers in the province, but workers here are paid $1,000 per month less than the average of all Alberta cities.

Last month, I wrote about rent affordability in Lethbridge. A lot of people agreed with the conclusions I drew from the data I presented: it confirmed their own lived experience.

But there were a few comments from people saying how good we have it here in Lethbridge, that we should try living in Calgary if we think rent is high in Lethbridge.

Never mind the fact that I didn’t claim rent was high in Lethbridge, only that it was unaffordable, nor did I say it wasn’t unaffordable elsewhere. But those comments did get me thinking.

CMHC considers rent to be affordable if it’s less than 30% of your pre-tax (gross) income. So I wondered what the average income in Lethbridge was, and how that compared to the average income in other cities. So I checked the most recent federal census data.

And what I discovered shocked me: Lethbridge has the lowest average wage of all the cities in Alberta.

Okay, technically, it has the third lowest. Brooks and Wetaskiwn have an average wage lower than Lethbridge’s, but only by $18 and $82 per year, respectively. Lethbridge workers make $1.50 more per month than Brooks workers and $6.83 per month more than Wetaskiwin. For all intents and purposes, the three cities are tied for last place in Alberta.

Not only is Lethbridge tied for the lowest paid workers in the province, but workers here are paid $1,000 per month less than the average of all 18 cities.

I also compared the average income for Lethbridge to the average income of the 58 communities in Canada that are larger than it. Lethbridge isn’t the lowest, but it is below the average of all 59 municipalities. It’s also the second lowest of the 7 largest municipalities in the Prairies.

Calgary, on the other hand (since people said we should try living there), has the highest average salary in Alberta, the highest in the Prairies, and the third highest in Canada. Calgary workers make, on average, $1,646.75 more per month than Lethbridge workers.

Finally, Statistics Canada categorizes income earners in $10,000 increments (those making under $10K, those making $10–20K, etc). The 4 lowest paid categories (under $10K, $10–20K, $20–30K, $30–40K) together make up 53% of the workforce, and each category has over 8,000 people in it—over 21,000 workers make between $10,000 and $30,000 alone. The fifth most populated category has over 7,600 people in it, yet it’s still under $50,000. 64% of the workforce makes under $50,000. The highest paid category—those making more than $150,000—contains only 2.4% of Lethbridge workers.

When people tell you they’re having a difficult time getting by in Lethbridge, believe them.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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