By Educators for Social Justice
Educators see the effects of poverty first hand.
Every day, we teach students from homes which lack the basic necessities for a healthy, dignified life. The effects of poverty are many and varied: a lack of nutritious food; decreased access to health care services such as dental care or prescription drugs; constant stress and anxiety related to precarious finances; unsuitable housing; and more. All these factors eat away at the potential of learners in our classrooms. Through absolutely no fault of their own, students living in poverty are disadvantaged before they even reach the start gate.
Fighting child poverty means fighting family poverty. Children do not earn wages; their parents and guardians do. In Nova Scotia the median annual income for an individual is just under $32,000. Low-wage workers (those who make less than $15/hour) make up 32% of all working people. In households led by a single parent, 48% of children live below the poverty line. In all, nearly one in five children in Nova Scotia lives in poverty, a number that reaches one in three in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
This is why we endorse the Fight for 15 and Fairness campaign in Nova Scotia. The campaign calls for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15, along with other measures to improve workers’ security and well-being, such as paid sick leave, better access to maternity leave benefits, and “just cause” protection for all workers.
In general, teachers in the public sector enjoy all these benefits and see the impact they have on our lives. We want all Nova Scotians to benefit from this same security. In our own workplaces, there are workers such as educational program assistants (EPAs) who make wages that are barely enough for a single person to live on, and even some teachers, especially substitutes, feel the impact of precarious employment.
Of course, any improvement in wages and employment standards must be accompanied by an improvement in measures to protect those who, for whatever reason, cannot work. The elderly, disabled people, and others deserve a decent, dignified life as much as any active worker.
As well, a $15 hourly wage is by no means enough to guarantee a dignified life for anyone earning it. In 2015 the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia calculated that a “living wage” that would allow for a family in Halifax to cover all its basic needs with a bit left over for savings was $20.10 per hour, a figure which has certainly risen since.
A $15 minimum wage and improvements in labour standards are the least that our government can do to begin to give working people a leg up and lift themselves out of poverty. We call upon this government to act immediately.