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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 and what it doesn’t

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 Nutritious Food Basket
  • Local quotes of goods and service providers

Summary of the 2019 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.




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

Clothing and footwear



Cost for clothes and footwear for all members of the family including cloth diapers for children under 4 years. These estimates were calculated for 2016 and were adjusted to the current using CPI data

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



Blue Cross Balance Plan for an extended health plan that includes basic coverage of dental, prescription drugs, optometry and other health practitioner expenses.




Cost for families to own and operate a vehicle 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 the University of Windsor

  • Average cost of courses in four different programs (Arts, Science, Engineering, Psychology/ Anthropology/Sociology).
  • Text books and other fees.

Childcare (before subsidy)



Average licensed child care costs (3 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.




  • *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.

Contingency for emergencies



+4.0% of total expenses (excluding savings).




Sum of annual expenses | 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.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions



Determined based on income and CPP rate for current year.

Employment Insurance (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 Canada Child Benefit (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 a provincial program that provides financial assistance to families living on low income raising children. Payments are issued monthly to eligible families along with their Canada Child Benefit. Eligibility is based on the number of children under 18 in your household and the family net income as reported on your income tax return. 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 a municipal program offering financial assistance to qualifying families in Windsor-Essex. This subsidy helps eligible families with  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 tax credit provided to eligible individuals and families living on low and modest incomes to help offset all or part of the GST or HST that they pay. You no longer have to apply for the GST/HST credit. The Canada Revenue Agency automatically determines eligibility when you file your next income tax and benefit return. Credit is issued to qualifying individuals every 3 months by cash payments.

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 2018 living wage is summarized below. The 2018 living wage for Windsor and Essex County is:

2018 Living Wage

Value ($)

Annual Family Expenses


Premiums and Taxes


Government Transfers


Annual household income


Annual salary per earner


Hourly wage per earner – job does not include health benefits


Hourly wage per earner – job includes health benefits


  • $15.15 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 $67,800 in 2019 from $66,374 in 2018 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.

Amendments to the 2019 Calculations

  1. Assuming a 35-hour work week – In previous calculations across Ontario, a standard work week was assumed to be 37.5-hours. Given data from Statistics Canada and to better align with other provinces’ living calculation methodologies, Ontario living wage calculations now assume a 35 hour work work.
  2. Weighted Average for Rural/Urban Transportation – The requirements for transportation in an urban setting compared to a rural community is very different. To reflect the actual costs of these differences a weighted average for transportation was used. Urban communities use the cost of one car and one adult transit pass whereas rural communities require both parents to have a vehicle to get to and from work. Calculating transportation expenses applied an online CAA tool to estimate car ownership and maintenance costs instead of relying on local estimates (oil changes, maintenance, fuel, etc.) or the Market Basket Measure. This source provided a more realistic and consistent cost of transportation in rural communities.
  3. Childcare – The number of required childcare days do not consider the 2-week family vacation or Professional Development days during the school year. To account for these additional days, the full day childcare has changed from 260 days of required care to 251. The before and after care requirement has been adjusted from 195 to 187 while the day camp requirement has been updated to 50 days from 65.
  4. Other Expenses - The 2019 Living Wage Calculator workbook included costs of clothing and footwear to permit consistency across all communities in the Living Wage Network. In addition, the cost of other expenses (toiletries, furniture, recreation, etc.) was defined as 75.4% of the combined expense for food, clothing and footwear (Statistics Canada.  Table  11-10-0223-01).
  5. Government Transfers - The amount of government transfers changed due to the inclusion of GST/HST credit and the Ontario Trillium Benefit. Further, the Childcare subsidy now assesses eligibility based on families previous year’s net income and not total income.

Download a non-accessible PDF version of this report.

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