What is a living wage?

A living wage is the amount of income needed for an individual to meet her or his basic needs without public or private assistance.

The City of Durham and Durham County, along with several other NC localities, have “livable wage” ordinances that apply to their own employees. Durham ties its living wage amount to a methodology based on the federal poverty level, which is updated annually. Over the last 17 years, the livable wage amount has increased from $8.58 per hour to $16.25 as of the summer of 2021. For Durham's livable wage rate history, click here

What is the Durham Living Wage Project?

Through voluntary certification, we aim to identify, acknowledge, and celebrate businesses and non-profits that pay a living wage. 

Why Durham?

Although Durham is thriving in many ways, our city is home to a low-wage workforce struggling to make ends meet. Almost one in five of the county’s residents (52,102 people) lived in poverty in 2012.

Why a private-employer certification program?

The state and federal minimum wages of $7.25 don’t let families earn enough to make ends meet. A creative way to work toward increased wages and decreased income inequality is a voluntary, business certification program – requiring no government action.

What are the goals of a living wage certification program?

●      To acknowledge and reward existing living wage employers

●      To connect consumers to businesses that pay a living wage

●      To provide employers with the incentive to increase workers’ wages to a living wage

●      To help promote a just and sustainable local economy

How does a living wage benefit individuals, communities, and the economy?

A full-time worker who earns a living wage of $16.25 instead of the legal minimum of $7.25 would gross another $18,720 per year.  That increase can lift a household out of poverty and toward the middle class. Because low-wage earners spend the money locally, a raise helps local businesses, creates jobs, and strengthens communities.