What it means to be ‘working poor’

For some, the term “working poor” is difficult to understand. How can someone who works full time and year round still fall under the poverty line? It’s often assumed they mismanage their money and/or live beyond their means. While this can be the case for some, for others being part of the “working poor” has nothing to do with how they budget and spend, and everything to do with inadequate wages, along with underemployment, a lack of accessible education and training programs, and the impact of the recent recession. In Ontario, the general minimum wage, the lowest wage rate an employer can pay an employee, is $10.25 per hour. Consider the case of a Guelph-area single parent of two children, working a minimum wage job. If this parents works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, their annual salary (before tax) works out to be $21,320. This falls below Canada’s low-income cut-off, the income threshold below which a family will likely devote a larger share of its income to the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family.

Publication Date: 
January 5, 2011
Journal Name: 
Guelph Mercury