February 2, 2013

Students were very pleased today to see the Nova Scotia Government approve a 15-cent increase to the province’s minimum wage, keeping it near the basic standard set by the low income cut off (LICO). Since 2004, the minimum hourly wage in Nova Scotia has risen from $6.50 to $10.30.

Students make up a significant proportion of the Nova Scotia workforce that is paid minimum wage. According to Statistics Canada, “close to 80% of teenagers and young adults hold a part-time minimum-wage job while pursuing their studies.” Almost two-thirds of minimum wage workers are under the age of 25, totalling one-in-six workers – and one-in-five women workers – in this age bracket. In total, approximately 63,000 employees in Nova Scotia earned wages near the minimum (below $10/hour) in 2009.

“This is a very positive policy and we applaud the government for showing leadership on this issue”, said StudentsNS Executive Director, Jonathan Williams. “These minimum wage increases ensure that students are fairly compensated for their work and protected from inflationary erosion of basic incomes.”

“It’s clear that this decision significantly benefits students, considering how many work minimum wage jobs to help themselves get through school”, said Kyle Power, Chair of StudentsNS. “Students are often paid minimum wage and depend on that money to pay for their tuition, to pay down their debt load and to maintain the most basic quality of life.”

Of course, as the Minimum Wage Committee notes, students “still face significant challenges in funding their education.” In fact, the 2% minimum wage increase will barely compensate for 3% tuition growth that Nova Scotia students saw this year, even as other costs also continued to rise.

“While we’re encouraged by this minimum wage raise, this must be part of broader efforts to support youth incomes, and post-secondary access and affordability”, said Williams. “Despite the important recent improvements to student assistance, it is always worrying to see tuition growing faster than student wages.”

Additionally, many students and graduates are struggling to find work in the first place. Youth unemployment is roughly double the rate of the general population.

“Nova Scotia’s current and future prosperity depends on ensuring that young people are successfully transitioning into the workplace without crippling debt,” said Power. “We still have work to do in Nova Scotia to ensure young people have opportunities to succeed.

Students Nova Scotia will be releasing a research report on supporting youth employment in April-May.