With rising living costs, minimum wages have been increased across Canada. While having a minimum wage reinforced by law is important for the rights of workers on lower wages, is the minimum wage enough to live on in Canada?
In this article, we have collated information on the minimum wage across the country. We also compare the minimum wage to a living wage to see if it is enough to cover the necessities, and statistics on how many people in Canada are earning a minimum wage.
Minimum Wage Statistics for Canadians
- The federal minimum rate in Canada has been $16.65 since April 2023.
- Following an increase in the territorial minimum wage in April 2023, Yukon has the highest minimum wage in Canada at $16.77 per hour.
- Saskatchewan has the lowest minimum wage in Canada at $13.00. It will go up to $14.00 in October 2023 and $15.00 in October 2024.
- Almost 9% of Canadian workers earn a minimum wage.
- 43% of workers earning a minimum wage work for companies with over 500 staff.
- The minimum wage is still below the living wage in Canada.
Minimum Wage in Canada
A minimum wage is the lowest legal hourly rate of pay employers can pay their employees. It is a core labour standard in Canada. Minimum wages were first introduced in Canada in 1918 when British Columbia and Manitoba introduced legislation on the minimum employees should get paid for their labour.
Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario introduced minimum wages in 1920. The last province to pass minimum wage legislation that covered both men and women was Prince Edward Island in 1960.
Federal Minimum Wage
The federal minimum wage, which was raised to $16.65 on April 1, 2023, to keep pace with inflation, applies to all workers covered by Part III of the Canada Labour Code. Workers covered by the federal minimum wage include employees in federal Crown corporations, federally regulated industries, and certain Indigenous employees on First Nations reserves.
Part III of the Labour Code came into force in 1965 and was initially $1.25 per hour. By 1986 it had increased to $4.00 per hour. The minimum wage stayed unchanged for several years and had fallen behind provincial and territorial rates significantly by the mid-1990s.
To address this, the code was amended in 1996. The key change was to adjust the federal minimum wage automatically to changes in provincial and territorial minimum wages. As a result, the federal minimum wage has been more in line with provincial and territorial rates since then.
Provincial and Territorial Minimum Wages
Most Canadian provinces and territories review and adjust their minimum wages regularly and most index their minimum wage rates to inflation. The list below gives you a quick overview of the minimum wage in each province/ territory.
- Alberta $15.00 effective from 26 June 2019
- British Columbia $16.75 effective from 01 June 2023
- Manitoba $15.30 effective from 01 October 2023
- New Brunswick $14.75 effective from 01 April 2023
- Newfoundland and Labrador $15.00 effective from 01 October 2023
- Northwest Territories $16.05 effective from 01 September 2023
- Nova Scotia $15.00 effective from 01 October 2023
- Nunavut $16.00 effective from 01 April 2020
- Ontario $16.55 effective from 01 October 2023
- Prince Edward Island $15.00 effective from 01 October 2023
- Quebec $15.25 effective from 01 May 2023
- Saskatchewan $14.00 effective from 01 October 2023
- Yukon $16.77 effective from 01 April 2023
In Alberta, the minimum wage has been set at $15.00 per hour since 2019. However, this only applies to adult workers. For students who are under 18 years of age, the minimum wage is $13.00 per hour for the first 28 hours of the working week. If the student works more than 28 hours, the hourly rate increases to $15.00 per hour.
The minimum wage was increased to $16.75 in British Columbia in June 2023. This is over $1 higher than the previous minimum wage of $15.65. The increase aligns with the province’s goal to match minimum wage increases to at least the average annual inflation rate. Employees in British Columbia can expect to receive their wages twice per month.
The minimum rate was increased to $14.15 per hour in April 2023 and again in October 2023. The new hourly minimum wage in Manitoba is now $15.30. People who work on commission must still earn at least the minimum hourly rate. Any shortfalls must be made up by the employer.
However, in Manitoba, the minimum rate can vary depending on the industry or type of work. For example, people who work in construction building homes must receive at least the minimum wage, while workers building bridges and roads have a different minimum rate.
New Brunswick has one of the lowest minimum wages at $14.75 per hour. However, it is in line with the minimum wages in Atlantic Canada and currently the highest. The province has an enforced overtime work rate which is $22.13 per hour. In addition, the province has set rates for people who work, for example, in government construction projects.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador is currently set at $14.50 per hour. However, it increased to $15.00 per hour on October 1, 2023. The minimum wage is reviewed in the province every year on April 1st in relation to the Consumer Price Index. There are some individuals, for example, those working in government construction projects, who are entitled to specific rates.
Since the beginning of September 2023, the minimum wage in Northwest Territories has been $16.05. Before the increase, it was $15.20 per hour and the increase brings it more in line with the other territories. The minimum hourly rate applies to all employees in the Northwest Territories regardless of their employment status or age.
The minimum wage was increased to $14.50 per hour in Nova Scotia in April 2023 and again in October 2023. The new hourly minimum rate is $15.00. From April 2025 onwards, Nova Scotia will adjust the minimum wage yearly based on inflation and with an additional 1%.
When Nunavut increased the territory’s minimum hourly rate to $16.00 in April 2020, it was the highest minimum wage in the country for a while. When the territory reviews its minimum wage it takes into account the cost of living, consumer price index, and average weekly and hourly wages.
In Nunavut, if an employee is asked to come to work outside their regular hours, they will receive at least four hours’ pay at their usual rate. This rule regarding minimum payment is in the Nunavut Labour Standards Act.
The province of Ontario increased its minimum wage to $15.50 in October 2022 and again in October 2023. The new minimum wage will be $16.55. However, there are exceptions.
Students under 18 years of age have a lower minimum wage, which is currently $14.60 per hour, while domestic/ homeworkers have a higher rate of $17.05 per hour. Domestic and homework include roles such as call centre staff or sewing clothing for manufacturers at home and compensates for employees using their own resources, such as electricity to perform the job.
Prince Edward Island
Until 1 October 2023, the minimum wage in Prince Edward Island was $14.50 per hour. At the start of October 2023, it was increased to $15.00 per hour. In Prince Edward Island, the same applies to all individuals regardless of the industry they work in or their age.
Quebec has a minimum wage of $15.25 per hour which came into effect in May 2023. This applies to most full-time and part-time employees. It does not apply to employees who can earn tips such as waiters or hairstylists. The minimum rate for professions where tipping is standard practice, the minimum hourly wage is $12.20.
At $13.00 per hour, Saskatchewan has the lowest minimum wage in Canada. Even when it increased to $14.00 in October 2023, it still remains the lowest. The province is due to increase it again, to $15.00 per hour, in October 2024. After that, the province will review the minimum wage annually and announce changes by 30th June each year with changes taking effect from October of the same year.
Yukon currently has the highest minimum wage in Canada at $16.77 per hour. The minimum wage is measured using the Consumer Price Index and connected to the cost of living. The territory reviews its minimum wage rate annually and changes take effect from April 1st.
Minimum Wage Workers in Canada
It is estimated that around 8.8% of workers in Canada earn the minimum wage. However, this varies across the provinces and territories. According to a labour force survey from 2017, Ontario had the highest proportion of people working at a minimum wage at 42% and Saskatchewan had the lowest at 3%.
The majority of people who earn a minimum wage in Canada are young. On average, 53% of them are aged between 15 and 24. 46.5% of minimum wage earners have been in their jobs under a year.
Large companies are more likely to have workers earning a minimum wage. 25% of low-income earners work for small companies with less than 20 staff, 19% for companies with 20-99 members of staff, 13% for medium-sized companies with up to 500 employees, and 43% for large companies with over 500 members of staff. However, companies with less than 20 staff members have the highest portion of minimum-wage employees at 26%.
Minimum Wage Compared to Living Wage
Despite increases to minimum wages, many argue that they are still not enough to ensure that individuals earn enough to meet their needs. Instead, all individuals should be paid at least a living wage, which is the minimum necessary income to cover all the basic needs.
How much a living wage needs to be, depends on where you live. However, across Canada, the living wage is considerably higher than the current minimum wage. Below are the living wages for some of Canada’s major cities.
- Calgary $22.40
- Edmonton $21.40
- Greater Victoria $24.29
- Metro Vancouver $24.08
- Halifax $23.50
- Saint John $21.60
- Ottawa $19.60
- Toronto $23.15
- Saskatoon $16.89
- Winnipeg $18.34
Provinces and territories across Canada have reviewed and increased their minimum wages so it is better in line with rising living costs. However, they are still below what is considered a living wage across the country and many companies have privately committed to paying a living wage as the minimum.
Frequently Asked Questions
The provinces and territories set their own minimum wages. However, the federal minimum rate for federal workers is $16.65.
Yukon has the highest rate at $16.77 and Saskatchewan at $13.00. However, the rate in Saskatchewan goes up to $14.00 in October 2023.
A living wage is based on the cost of living in an area and not set in law. A minimum wage is a legal requirement and set by the provincial/ territorial governments.