The False Dichotomy: Minimum Wages Vs WITB

As designed, the WITB (Canada’s version of the US earned income tax benefit) is not structured to increase the minimum annual full time wage.  In most provincial jurisdictions the WITB kicks out just before or just after the minimum annual full time wage is achieved.

For example a single person earning minimum wage working full time of 35 hours a week in Quebec will have an annual gross income of between 14,000 and 15,000.  The WITB for the lower amount is 230$ for the year or 19.16 per month.  The WITB for the higher amount is 30$ a year or 2.50$ per month!

As is clear from the example above the WITB is designed to phase out at the point a full time minimum wage salary is achieved.  The whole point of the program is to make sure that there are not any tax penalties for working.   And it most definitely is not about augmenting the full time minimum wage.

So in sense those that argue in favour of the WITB over the minimum wage as a poverty alleviation strategy simply do not know what they are talking about because full time minimum wages are being used by the government to set the income threshold for the program.  That is, the only way in which WITB can be viewed as augmenting the minimum annual wage is if an individual works less than full time then the WITB kicks to augment the wage but outside of a narrow band not to the full time minimum wage level.

In the illustration above the WITB would contribute 230$ to someone working just shy of 35 hours a week 52 weeks a year. However, for someone working part time at minimum wages in Quebec, the WITB would kick in around 750$ a year effectively increasing the minimum wage by .78 cents an hour.

Hence it is only in the case of a part-time minimum wage worker that the WITB makes a meaningful adjustment to the minimum hourly wage.  However, in the last example provided above, someone working 20 hours a week at min wage including the WITB will have an annual income 8,640$.

Hardly a poverty arrestor.

Interestingly one of the perverse outcomes of the program is that there is a built in incentive for min wage employers to offer less than full time hours because the further away from full time the higher the level of the wage subsidy/premium.  The other perverse outcome (some will say a feature because it targets the worst of the worst off–part time min wage workers) is that unlike increases in the min wage which increase all min wage workers’ salaries the WITB only meaningfully increases part time min wages while doing little to nothing for full time min wage workers.

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2 thoughts on “The False Dichotomy: Minimum Wages Vs WITB

  1. Nicely done — great example of how the Conservatives simply want to ensure Canada maintains a large captive pool of working-poor.

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