Changes to Alberta's minimum wage

Alberta’s minimum wage will increase to $15/hour by 2018, a move towards a living wage for every Albertan.

How minimum wage works

Minimum wage is the lowest amount employers can pay their employees by law.

The hourly minimum wage is the same for adults, liquor servers and young people. There's a separate weekly and monthly minimum wage for some salespersons and domestic employees. Learn more about minimum wage rules and exemptions.

About 296,000 Albertans 15.4% of all workers earn less than $15/hour. More than half of them work full-time and nearly 40% are parents.

Low-income earners should be able to support their families without having to visit the food bank. That’s why we're increasing Alberta's minimum wage to $13.60 on Oct. 1, 2017 and to $15 by Oct. 1, 2018.

Table 1: Minimum wage rates 2016-18

Employee type Oct 1, 2017 Oct 1, 2018
General $13.60/hour $15/hour
Salespersons
(including land agents and certain professionals)
$542/week $598/week
Domestic employees
(living in their employers home)
$2,582/month $2,848/month

Why Alberta is moving to $15/hour

A higher minimum wage can help reduce poverty, lessen the burden on social support programs and improve the quality of life for vulnerable Albertans. It can also improve employee satisfaction, which can help employers reduce staff turnover, recruitment and training expenses. Higher levels of employee satisfaction and productivity may improve profits and help expand business.

Recent studies in Canada and the US show that gradual increases to the minimum wage do not have a negative effect on overall employment levels. Positive effects of raising minimum wage include increased consumer spending, better health outcomes and lower wage inequality, especially for women.

Information for employers

We’re phasing in minimum wage increases to ensure employers are aware of the timing well in advance so they can plan accordingly. To further assist employers, we have:

  • reduced small business tax rates from 3% to 2%
  • introduced the Enhanced Innovation Voucher and Small/Medium Enterprises Support program
  • created the ministry of Economic Development and Trade to provide Alberta’s private sector job creators with a one-stop shop for economic development and diversification
  • dedicated $34 billion over the next 5 years to support modern, efficient infrastructure for Alberta families and businesses
  • provided more capital for ATB Financial and Alberta Enterprise to encourage investment in Alberta businesses
  • expanded the mandate for the Alberta Investment Management Corporation
  • reinstated the Summer Temporary Employment Program
  • implemented the Canada-Alberta Job Grant, a six-year initiative with the Government of Canada to support employers in building a strong workforce through better trained workers
  • introduced the Capital Investment Tax Credit to encourage investment and support job creation

What is a living wage

A living wage isn’t the same as the minimum wage. A living wage is an estimate of what workers need to earn to cover the actual costs of living in a specific community.

The living wage is calculated as the hourly rate at which a household can meet its basic needs, once government transfers have been added to the family's income and deductions have been subtracted. The living wage gets families out of severe financial stress by lifting them out of poverty and providing a basic level of economic security.

Some sources set that figure as high as $18/hour or more, depending on the region.

Raising Alberta’s minimum wage to $15/hour is a reasonable, long-term step on the way to a living wage that will be meaningful for low-income earners, and give employers and organizations time to adjust.

A living wage:

  • enables working families to have sufficient income to cover reasonable costs
  • ensures that families are not under severe financial stress
  • is a conservative, reasonable estimate
  • promotes social inclusion
  • supports healthy child development principles
  • engenders significant and wide ranging community support
  • is a vehicle for promoting the benefits of social programs such as childcare

For more information, see Living Wage Canada’s index of living wages in Alberta.

Who makes less than $15 in Alberta

About 292,400 individuals, or about 15.5% of Alberta employees, earn less than $15 an hour.

  • 59.6% of low-wage earners are female
  • 39.4% are parents
  • 51.1% work full-time
  • 79.0% have permanent jobs

The following tables show information on Albertans who make less than $15 per hour.

Age

Age range Under $15/hr % of min. wage earners
15-19 76,500 26.2%
20-24 59,800 20.4%
25-29 31,300 10.7%
30-34 24,500 8.4%
35-39 19,000 6.5%
40-44 21,500 7.3%
45-49 14,800 5.1%
50-54 14,000 4,8%
55+ 31,100 10.6%

Students

Student status Under $15/hr
Student 49,900
Non-student 242,500
Total 292,400

Gender

Gender Under $15/hr
Female 174,200
Male 118,200
Total 292,400

Employment

Employment type Under $15/hr
Full Time (30+ hr.) 149,400
Part Time (1-29 hr.) 143,100
Total 292,400

Education

Highest level of education Under $15/hr
0-8 Years (Elementary) 4,800
Some high school 62,000
High school graduate 89,000
Some post-secondary 30,300
Post-secondary certificate or diploma 62,700
University degree 43,700
Total 292,400

Job

Job tenure Under $15/hr
1-12 months 114,600
1-5 years 140,500
More than 5 years 37,200
Total 292,400

Employment

Employment type Under $15/hr
Permanent 231,900
Temporary 61,400
Total 292,400

Position in household

Position in household Under $15/hr
Head of house hold 102,800
Other 16,800
Parent (or parent in law) 8,700
Son or daughter (or in law) 110,600
Spouse 53,600
Total 292,400

Family

Family type Under $15/hr
Married, dual earners with children 74,400
Married, dual earners no children 63,500
Married, single earner no children 22,700
Married, single earner with children 22,500
Other 52,100
Single parent with children 18,200
Unattached individual 39,100
Total 292,400

Industry

Industry Under $15/hr
Accommodation and food services 78,100
Retail trade 104,600
Other services (except public administration) 19,100
Information, culture and recreation 17,100
Educational services 11,800
All other industries 61,700
Total 292,400

See the Alberta Low Wage Profile: April 2016-March 2017 (0.2 MB) for more information.

Minimum wage research

There has been ample research on the effects of raising the minimum wage. Recent studies include:

2016 Minimum wage consultations

Focused consultations were recently held in 9 communities across Alberta with key stakeholders, including employers, business groups, social service organizations, unions and low-income earners.

Discussion topics included size and pace of future increases along the path to a $15 per hour minimum wage, potential effects of increases and alternatives that government can consider to support employers. Meal and lodging deductions were discussed with employers and employees in resort areas, where these deductions are typically used.