Living Wages

Voluntary Living Wages


What it is

A living wage is one that covers the necessities for life: food, water, housing, health care, education, clothing, transportation, and child care. It is not the same as the minimum wage because it is calibrated so that employees can meet their basic needs based on costs in a specific community while maintaining a decent standard of living.


Financial security supports a family's physical, social, and emotional health. For parents, basic resources provided by a living wage and supportive benefits allow them to parent effectively even under stress. Texas does not have a state-specific minimum wage, and adopts the Federal Minimum Wage by reference which applies to most employees, with limited exceptions including tipped employees, some student workers, and other exempt occupations. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for a full-time employee, amounting to only $15,080 per year. According to City of Austin calculations, a living wage in our community is nearly double that at $15 per hour or $31,200 per year. A single parent making minimum wage earns below the federal poverty line and well below a living wage in Austin.

The living wage chart below shows the hourly rate an individual must earn to support their family if they are the sole provider and are working full time. (The state minimum wage is the same for all individuals regardless of how many dependents they may have.)

Tips and tools

  • Businesses see a decrease in employee turnover when implementing a living wage: Turnover costs an employer at least 150% of the employee’s base salary. For example, it costs $28,500 to replace an employee that earns $15,000 a year, when a $2 wage increase would only cost the employer $4,160 per year.

  • Higher wages attract more qualified and productive workers: By offering a living wage, employers will be able to recruit more qualified employees. In the end this will result in increased productivity and efficiency.

  • Employee morale leads to increased business productivity: If employees feel that they are valued and fairly compensated for their work, then employees show up and work hard.

  • Stay informed about cost of living changes in your community on a regular basis. Calculate the cost benefit of living wages with costs of employee turnover.

  • Use the Family Budget Calculator to understand the real expenses families are facing in relationship to wages:

  • The Living Wage Network: The network is composed of certification programs that recognize employers who pay a living wage, significantly impacting the lives of tens of thousands of low-wage workers across the country.


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