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This is how much it costs to 'thrive' on a single, working wage in Toronto

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The annual cost of “thriving” for a single working-age adult in Toronto is $61,654 after taxes, a new report found.

The Wellesley Institute’s new research, Thriving in the City, released earlier this week, aims to quantify how much money an individual needs to make in order to be physically, socially and psychologically healthy – or as they characterize it, “thrive” – in the city.

“Thriving is not just having your basic food and shelter needs met. It includes connecting to your community and family, learning, and ensuring your long-term financial security,” Wellesley Institute researcher Abinaya Balasubramaniam said

That “thriving” figure calculated for a single person between the ages of 25 and 40, amounts to $61,654 after taxes in Toronto and $83,680 in Mississauga, according to the report, which examined two scenarios: a Toronto-based renter without a car and a Mississauga-based condominium owner with a car.

“This is far above the earnings of a minimum-wage ($16.55 per hour), full-time worker (i.e., 35 hours per week), which is $25,994 after taxes. The highest costs are associated with fundamental aspects of life, such as shelter, transportation and savings,” the report found.

An individual earning a living wage – the minimum required to cover the cost of living – amounts to $25.05 per hour, or $45,591 per year, before taxes in the Greater Toronto Area.

That’s just 74 per cent of the cost required in order to “thrive” in Toronto and just 54 per cent for those living in the suburbs.

The research shows that the cost of living in the GTA has skyrocketed since Wellesley Institute first conducted its Thriving in the City research in 2017 – up 33 per cent for single adults in Toronto – with the costs of housing, transportation, and putting aside enough money for retirement acting as the largest drivers of the increase.

The authors estimated essential costs in nine primary domains of life based on existing research, such as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Rental Market Report and Statistics Canada data.

Most notably, the average market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto costs $21,008 a year ($1,750.70 per month), while owning a one-bedroom condo in Mississauga amounts to $36,228 per year, taking into account mortgage payments, property taxes and home insurance.

The average price of food amounted to $5,310 per year, transit totalled $2,877, and health-care costs, including extended coverage and over-the-counter drugs, cost $2,436.

The report pegged “social participation,” which includes books, internet, a smartphone plan and travel, at $7,356 per year.

While certain costs, like social participation, can be reduced, the highest costs are fundamental ones, like shelter and therefore, would only have a minimal effect on annual expenses.

Increasing the minimum wage is an important step forward, but the research concludes that it is unlikely to ever be sufficient enough to support a thriving state of well-being.

“If we cannot increase wages to the level at which people can thrive, then we have to decrease the cost of essentials such as housing, food, utilities and transportation. We also need to make sure everyone has proper access to the care and support they need. This should not be considered optional. If we do not do it now, we will pay for it in the future,” Wellesley Institute CEO Dr. Kwame McKenzie said. 

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