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A living wage is the minimum amount a person must earn to afford to live and participate in a specific community. It is not the same as the minimum wage, which is the lowest rate an employer can legally pay for work performed.

The living wage takes into consideration basic level of economic security and quality of life for most two-parent families (but it is designed to support most other types of households as well) within a given community context, meaning it is different for each community. Receiving a living wage affords individuals and families increased opportunity to live with dignity and participate as active citizens in our society.

Calculating the Living Wage for Windsor-Essex County

How is the Living Wage Calculated?

The living wage is based on the Canadian Living Wage Framework and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ontario Family Expense Workbook. Use of these tools helps keep calculations consistent and comparable across Canada. To determine the living wage for Windsor and Essex County, the following reference household scenario is used:

A healthy family of four:

  • Two adults, both age 35 and both working full time (35 hours per week).

  • One child age 3; requires 251 days of full-day childcare.

  • One child age 7; requires 50 days of full-day childcare in the summer and 187 days of before-and-after-school care.

The living wage is calculated based on how much a family spends on necessities (annual family expenses), plus how much they pay towards taxes and premiums (employment insurance and pension plan), minus eligible tax credits and other subsidies (government transfers). The living wage is traditionally calculated every year.

Living Wage = Annual Family Expenses + Taxes and Premiums –  Government Transfers

What does the Living Wage Calculation include? What does it not include?

Living wage includes:

  • Healthy food
  • Shelter and utilities
  • Household furnishings
  • Transportation (cars, operating costs, and adult bus pass)
  • Basic telephone and internet
  • Private health insurance including life and disability insurance
  • Childcare (before subsidy)
  • Vacations and family outings
  • Clothing, laundry, personal care, recreation, reading
  • Other (memberships, bank fees, tenant insurance)
  • Continuing parental education
  • Contingency for emergencies

Living wage does not include:

  • Debt/student loan repayments
  • Home ownership
  • Special dietary requirements
  • Costs related to disability
  • Professional development
  • Savings for retirement or children’s future education
  • Professional services (e.g., lawyer or accountant)
  • Personal lifestyle behaviours (e.g., tobacco and alcohol)
  • Cable television
  • Pets
  • Take-out food
  • Luxury items

The data used in the calculation comes from a variety of local, provincial, and national sources. Where feasible, the living wage calculation prioritizes the use of the most recent local data to determine the cost of living within our community. The data sources used for this calculation include:

  • Government of Canada
  • Government of Ontario
  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
  • Market Basket Measure
  • Statistics Canada’s Survey of Household Spending (SHS)
  • Windsor-Essex County Nutritious Food Basket
  • Local quotes of goods and service providers

Summary of the 2020 Windsor-Essex Living Wage Calculation

The following tables provide a breakdown of the estimates and explanations of annual family expenses, premiums and taxes, and government transfers. It is anticipated that knowledge of this living wage calculation can inform public policy debate in areas such as affordable housing, transportation, and education.

Table 1. Family expenses for a reference household in Windsor-Essex County

Annual Family Expenses

Annual Cost ($)

Monthly Cost ($)





Cost for a family of four to eat healthy according to the Nutritious Food Basket costing tool for Windsor-Essex County.

Clothing and footwear



The clothing and footwear expenses are estimated for each member of the family using the Survey of Household Spending (2017), table 11-10-0223-01 (formerly CANSIM).




Local cost to rent a 3 bedroom and 1 bathroom apartment according to the CMHC.

Shelter utilities



Local expense for hydro costs from Ontario Energy Board:

  • Average electricity usage of 750 kWh.

Tenant insurance



Least expensive local quote for insurance on 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment:

  • $35,000 property value; $1,000 deductible; $100,000 personal liability.




Least expensive locally for basic services:

  • Two smartphone plans (new basic phone, unlimited texting, no data, 2-year plan).
  • Basic internet plan (6-15 mbps download, 70-150 GB bandwidth) and cost of modem.
  • Netflix subscription

Extended health plan



Manulife FlexCare ComboPlus - Basic Plan for an extended health plan that includes basic coverage of dental, prescription drugs, optometry and other health practitioner expenses




Cost of owning and operating a vehicle along with a bus pass using a weighted average to accommodate transportation cost differences between urban and rural settings


Parent education



Cost of part-time tuition for two courses from University of Windsor

  • Average cost of courses in four different programs (Arts, Science, Engineering, Business and Computer science).
  • Text books and other fees

Childcare (before subsidy)



Average licensed center-based child care costs in a region with child care subsidies are available (3 local quotes) for:

  • 3-year-old attending 251 full days.
  • 7-year-old attending 50 full days and 187 days of before-and-after-school care.




  • Statistics Canada Market Basket Measure (MBM) calculates ‘Other’ expense at 75.4% of the combined expense for ‘Food’, ‘Clothing’ and ‘Footwear’
    • Toiletries and personal care, furniture, household supplies, laundry, school supplies and fees, bank fees, some reading materials, minimal recreation and entertainment, family outings (for example to museums and cultural events), birthday presents, modest family vacation and some sports and/or arts classes for the children




+4.0% of total expenses (excluding savings).




Sum of annual/monthly family expenses

Note: Values rounded to the nearest whole dollar.

* Statistics Canada Market Basket Measure (MBM) calculates ‘Other’ expense at 75.4% of the combined expense for ‘Food’ & ‘Clothing and footwear’


Table 2. Premiums and taxes for a reference household in Windsor-Essex County

Premiums and Taxes

Annual Cost ($)


Federal tax after credits


Determined through income tax form.

Provincial tax after credits


Determined through income tax form.

CPP Contributions



Determined based on income and CPP rate for current year.

EI Contributions

Determined based on income and EI rate for current year.



Sum of premiums and taxes

Note: Values rounded to the nearest whole dollar.

Table 3. Eligible government transfers for a reference household in Windsor-Essex County

Government Transfers

Annual Gains ($)


Canada Child Benefit


The new Canada Child Benefit (CCB) replaced the Universal Child Care Benefit in 2016. The CCB is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. Benefit payments are recalculated every year based on information from your income tax and benefit return from the previous year.

Ontario Child Benefit


The Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) is provided to eligible Ontario families to provide financial assistance in raising their children. A family with 2 children must have a net income of $30,000 or less to qualify for this benefit.

Windsor-Essex Childcare Subsidy


The childcare subsidy is offered to qualifying families in Windsor-Essex to cover the cost of licensed child care for children up to the age of 12. The amount of financial relief that a family qualifies for is based on their net family income. Determined using child care subsidy benefits calculator.

GST/HST Credit


A quarterly credit provided to eligible individuals and familes living on low and modest income to offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. The Canada Revenue Agency automatically determines eligibility when you file your next income tax and benefit return.

Ontario Trillium Benefit


The Ontario Trillium Benefit (OTB) is a tax credit made available to eligible low-to moderate-income Ontario residents to help pay for energy costs, sales and property tax



Sum of government transfers

Note: Values rounded to the nearest whole dollar.


The calculation for the 2020 living wage is summarized below. The 2020 living wage for Windsor and Essex County is:

2018 Living Wage

Value ($)

Annual Family Expenses


Premiums and Taxes


Government Transfers


Annual household income needed

(Annual Family Expenses + Premiums – Government Transfers)


Annual salary per earner


Hourly wage per earner – job does not include health benefits


Hourly wage per earner – job includes health benefits


  • $15.52 per hour for workers whose employers do not provide health benefits.
  • $14.00 per hour for workers whose employers do provide health benefits.

The total household expenses increased to $71,195 in 2020 from $67,809 in 2019 for the Living Wage calculation. The differences in household expenses between the current and previous year were associated with changes in the sources of expense costs and calculation methodology. Of significance, communities whose public policy provide greater income and service support such as an affordable transit passes, rent supplements, childcare subsidies and/or subsidized recreation programs will facilitate a lower living wage. The Living Wage for employees receiving health benefits is $14 assuming the benefit plan covers more than 20% of health costs.

Amendments to the 2020 Calculations

  1. Childcare – The cost of this expense accounts for the availability of a childcare subsidy to eligible families. Access to the childcare subsidy dictates whether to use the cost of center or home-based child care in expense calculation.
  2. Clothing and footwear – The 2020 Living Wage calculation adjusts for inflation in the cost of clothing and footwear using the 2017 Consumer Price Index (CPI) rates compared to the 2019 Living Wage, which applied 2016 CPI rates.

Description of Expenses

Food: The food expense is taken from the 2019 Cost of Nutritious Food Basket report for the Windsor and Essex County region.

Clothing and Footwear: The amount is obtained from Statistics Canada’s Survey of Household Spending (2017), table 11-10-0223-01 and adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data from table 18-10-0005-01.

Rent:   Average rent for a 3 bedroom and 1 bathroom apartment in the Windsor and Essex County (WEC) region was obtained from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC) Market Rental Report, Fall 2018.

Utilities: The average estimated electricity usage amount in WEC of 750 kWh was utilized and sourced from the Report of the Ontario Energy Board Defining Ontario’s Typical Electricity Customer. The monthly cost of electricity was based on average estimated cost from EnWin and calculated using the Ontario Energy Board’s calculator using tiered pricing.

Tenant Insurance: This was obtained from for local estimates for tenant insurance

Household items and furniture expenses: This can be found under “Other expenditures” below

Telephone: In this calculation, the cost of a cellphone for each adult was included. Landlines were no longer considered as part of the Living Wage calculation. The least expensive unlimited talk and text cell phone plan was obtained in WEC. Upfront costs such as activation fees, SIM cards or modems were not included. Additionally, short-term promotional discounts for new customers were also excluded.

Internet: An unlimited internet plan was selected that would support the use of Netflix sourced from a local internet service provider. Tech Savvy’s DSL 6 Unlimited proved to have the best price in WEC.

Transportation: For a vehicle it was the amount for owning and operating a 4-year old car (as recommended by the CCPA Ontario Family Expense Workbook). This also takes into consideration depreciation, insurance, gasoline, oil changes, vehicle registration, repair costs and winter tires.

Additionally, a monthly adult bus pass was also included along side bus tickets for travel with children all sourced from Transit Windsor

Parent Education: The University of Windsor’s tuition costs were utilized for two three credit courses. The average tuition costs were taken across 4 different programs due to the variation in tuition costs amongst the programs. University based fees and costs of textbooks were also included and sourced from the University of Windsor’s website.

Child Care: Local estimates were obtained for the annual cost for full day care (251 days) for a 3-year olds using ABC Daycare, Delta Chi Daycare and Great Beginnings Day Care. For 7 year olds, daily care (before and after school) was obtained using the YMCA, Delta Chi, ABC Daycare and Great Beginnings for 187 days. For 7 year olds, the cost of summer camp programs (50 days of care) were sourced from the City of Windsor’s website from Adie Knox Herman Summer Day Camp, Atkinson Memorial Summer Day Camp and Capri Pizzeria Community Centre.

Health Insurance: This was obtained in 2019 through and included coverage for four dependents. Additionally, critical illness insurance and life insurance was also obtained and included in this calculation for each adult

Other Expenses: This amount was obtained from Statistics Canada’s Market Basket Measure which is 75.4% of the combined expense for Food and Clothing and Footwear. The amount is intended to cover toiletries and personal care, furniture, household supplies, laundry, school supplies and fees, bank fees, some reading material, minimal recreation and entertainment, family outing (for example to museums and cultural events), birthday presents, modest family vacation and some sports and/or art classes for children.

Contingency: A small contingency amount equal to 4% of all household expenditures was calculated.

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Last modified: 
Monday, December 21, 2020 - 11:30am