Debunked: Alberta minimum wage workers aren’t mostly teens

Since 2011, the Alberta government has been publishing the “Alberta minimum wage profile”, a summary of the demographic information regarding those whose average hourly earnings are at or below minimum wage.

This past June, the government added the minimum wage profile for workers during the period between October 2019 and September 2020. This was the first update to this annual document during the UCP’s administration

What we believe about the type of people who work minimum wage may not actually align with who these workers actually are.

For example, did you know that the vast majority of workers being paid minimum wage aren’t teenagers?

In fact, only 27.1% of minimum wage workers are between the age of 15 and 19. If you include only those who are 15 through 17, it drops to just 13.9%. That means that nearly 9 in 10 minimum wage workers are older than high school age.

Actually, nearly 2 out of every 5 of workers being paid minimum wage are 30 years old or older. Not only that, but roughly 1 in 9 are 55 years or older.

During the first two years of the UCP administration, the percentage of minimum wage workers who were under 20 years of age hit their lowest level since at least 2010.

And that means the opposite is also true: the proportion of minimum wage earners who are older than teenagers has reached its highest levels since 2010.

While people might be quick to point out that those minimum wage workers who are older than teenagers are probably mostly students, especially since 1 in 5 are between 20 and 24 years old, the report says that only 26.1% are students. Nearly 3 in 4 workers being paid minimum wage are not students.

Another common belief is that minimum wage workers are mostly part-time. And that’s sort of true. Between October 2019 and September 2020, 56.7% of all minimum wage workers were working part-time. That being said, there were still 43.3% of them who were working full time, which is still a significant proportion.

Related to that, 73.5% of minimum wage workers were working in a permanent job, as of a year ago. Only 26.5% were in a temporary position. The majority of minimum wage workers (58.1%) had been working in their position for over a year, and about 1 in 6 had been in their job for over 5 years.

Of those who were being paid only a minimum wage, as of September 2020, only 14.3% of them had no spouse or partner nor children under 18.

Actually, nearly 3 times that amount (41.2%) were supporting children under the age of 18 at home. While most of them were married to someone else who was also earning an income, about 1 in 8 were the sole earners (either married or single).

Did you know that most workers who were being paid minimum wage had at least a high school diploma? Only 22.2% of minimum wage workers had never completed high school. As well, almost half (45.4%) had completed at least some post-secondary education, with 75.3% of those having received a certificate, diploma, or degree.

Unsurprisingly, most of the workers being paid minimum wage were in either the retail sector or the accommodation and food services sector. Combined, these two sectors accounted for 60.9% of all minimum wage workers.

In fact, the percentage of workers being paid minimum wage who are 20 years old or older is at its highest level under the UCP.

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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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