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 worksMinimum wage is the lowest amount that can be paid to an employee by law.
Why we're moving to $15/hourLow-income earners should be able to support their families without having to visit the food bank.
Information for employersFind out what the minimum wage changes could mean for your business.
What is a living wage?An estimate of how much a worker needs to make to afford basic necessities in their community.
Who makes less than $15/hour?About 296,000 Albertans earn less than $15 an hour, nearly 40% are parents.
Minimum wage researchAmple research has been done on the effects of raising the minimum wage.
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|
(including land agents and certain professionals)
(living in their employers home)
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 range||Under $15/hr||% of min. wage earners|
|Student status||Under $15/hr|
|Employment type||Under $15/hr|
|Full Time (30+ hr.)||149,400|
|Part Time (1-29 hr.)||143,100|
|Highest level of education||Under $15/hr|
|0-8 Years (Elementary)||4,800|
|Some high school||62,000|
|High school graduate||89,000|
|Post-secondary certificate or diploma||62,700|
|Job tenure||Under $15/hr|
|More than 5 years||37,200|
|Employment type||Under $15/hr|
Position in household
|Position in household||Under $15/hr|
|Head of house hold||102,800|
|Parent (or parent in law)||8,700|
|Son or daughter (or in law)||110,600|
|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|
|Single parent with children||18,200|
|Accommodation and food services||78,100|
|Other services (except public administration)||19,100|
|Information, culture and recreation||17,100|
|All other industries||61,700|
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:
- A Reanalysis of the Effect of the New Jersey Minimum Wage Increase on the Fast-Food Industry with Representative Payroll Data (4 MB) Card, D & Krueger, A.(1999)
- Dispelling Minimum Wage Mythology: The Minimum Wage and the Impact on Jobs in Canada, 1983-2012 Brennan, J. & Stanford, J. (2014)
- Estimating Potential Reductions in Premature Mortality in New York City From Raising the Minimum Wage to $15 (0.6 MB) Tsao, T., Konty, K., Wye, G., Barbot, O., Hadler, J., Linos, N. & Bassett, M. (2016)
- The Effects of a $15 Minimum Wage in New York State (0.8 MB) Allegretto, S., Jacobs, K., Montialoux, C. & Reich, M.(2016)
- Introduction of a National Minimum Wage Reduced Depressive Symptoms in Low-Wage Workers: A Quasi-Natural Experiment in the UK (0.2 MB) Reeves, A., McKee, M., Mackenbach, J., Whitehead, M. & Stuckler, D. (2017)
- Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties (0.4 MB) Dube, T., Lester, W. & Reich, M. (2010)
- Minimum Wages and Wage Spillovers in Canada Campolieti, M. (2015)
- Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (0.6 MB) Card, D & Krueger, A. (1994)
- Minimum Wage Shocks, Employment Flows and Labour Market Frictions (3 MB) Dube, A., Lester, T. & Reich, M. (2013)
- Optimal minimum wage policy in competitive labour markets (0.7 MB) Lee, D & Saez, E. (2012)
- Revisiting the Minimum Wage-Employment Debate: Throwing out the Baby with the Bathwater? (1 MB) Neumark, D., Salas, I. & Wascher, W. (2013)
- Seattle's Minimum Wage Experience 2015-16 (0.6 MB) Reiech, M., Allegretto, S. & Godoey, A. (2017)
- The Unexpected Long-run Impact of the Minimum Wage: An Educational Cascade (0.3 MB) Sutch, R. (2010)
- Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment? (0.6 MB) Schmitt, J. (2013)
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.