*Photo montage by Gary Foster Skelton
*Photo montage by Gary Foster Skelton

Can you imagine trying to live off of $400 a week?

And that’s before taxes and pensions are taken out.

Every week there are at least 2,610 wage earners in Bermuda who make less than that.

And according to Nicola Feldman, executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, if you’re making that little money, “What is the point in even working?”

According to the Department of Statistics, the bottom 10 per cent of job holders earn $21,000 and less per year. That figure is based on the 2012 Employment Survey (the 2013 Survey will be out in April) of 26,138 workers.

A total of 1,540 of those workers are part-time, but that still leaves 1,073 job holders who work full-time who are making $11.50 an hour or less. 

Most of those full-time workers are Bermudians. A total of 706 are Bermudian, 303 are non-Bermudian with 49 spouses of Bermudian and 15 who are permanent residents.

More than half of the full-time workers who make less than $21,000 a year are either service workers or shop and market sales workers. Ms Feldman said once the deductions are taken out, the figure is much, much worse.

She said: “If an individual was on a $21,000 salary, once deductions are taken out, their take-home salary would be just about $1,400 per month.  

“This barely covers rent. So where does money come from for food, electricity, and the other expenses associated with childcare?”

She cited the 2007 Low Income Thresholds study that estimated that the cost of one child per year in Bermuda is approximately $20,000 (assuming the child is in public school and therefore no school fees to pay). Ms Feldman said: “This equates to a monthly cost of over $1,600. That’s more than the salary of a worker at the low-income end of the spectrum. 

“How do we expected functioning families when the cost of living is completely out of whack with what unskilled and semi-skilled labourers can afford to live off of?

“Furthermore, if these families will already be needing support from financial assistance just to cover the bare minimum of costs despite working full time, what is the actual incentive to work? 

“The rest of us work hard so we improve our standard of living — that is a rational choice. There is no rational choice. When you bust your butt and still can’t make ends me. What is the point in even working?”