Which 9 Nations Pay a Higher Minimum Wage Than the U.S.?

17. Walmart
Ariana Lindquist/Bloomberg

The latest battle over the minimum wage continues to heat up, with critics of the current wage, including me, noting that the average fast food worker in America doesn't currently make enough money to rise above the poverty line. While that's bad enough, it gets even worse when you consider that the average fast food worker already brings home $8.94 an hour -- $1.69 more than the minimum wage. To put it in context, the federal minimum wage has been trending downward since 1968, and -- adjusted for inflation -- is now lower than it was in 1956.

That means that today's McDonald's employee is effectively making about a buck less an hour than a soda jerk brought home when Eisenhower was in the White House. And odds are, that worker probably isn't being offered full-time hours.

But it's not all bad news: internationally, American workers fare up pretty well. Taken at face value, their minimum wage comes in 12th in the world, ahead of Israel, South Korea, and some other industrialized countries. Granted, Australia pays its workers at least $16 per hour and Japan pays them $9.24, but -- in a global context at least, America is doing pretty well.

The numbers get even narrower when one considers purchasing power parity, or PPP. Basically a measure of the goods and services that a sum of money will purchase, PPP considers how far a dollar will go. In Australia, for example, PPP shifts the minimum wage from $16 to a more measured $9.77.

In a recent article, The Atlantic noted that, accounting for PPP, America's workers actually come in 10th place, behind Canada and New Zealand and ahead of Japan and Austria.

Then again, the average American worker spends four times as much on health care as the average Austrian -- and roughly seven times as much as the average Japanese worker. This expense, which isn't factored into PPP, can be heavy -- and even at times devastating. Still, there's the bright side: we're number 10.

Right behind New Zealand.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Getting out of debt

Everyone hates debt. Get out of it.

View Course »

Intro to Retirement

Get started early planning for your long term future.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

If the greedy have trouble tracing their ancestors to the Norman invasion of England it's because they were either slain on the battle field or sent to the tower of London to appease William the Conqueror or his successors. Fancy that!

September 17 2013 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It will be funny when the other countries seize the factories for the state then the Titans of greed will be out of luck. Another world war might just upset the new world order slave labor scheme.

September 17 2013 at 12:00 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Our own companies pushed for the trade deals and tariff elimination so they could export back to the US and avoid paying fair wages and benefits. What crooks!

September 16 2013 at 11:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you got to cheat your workers then your business should fold.

September 16 2013 at 11:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Rasing the minimum wage raises it for everyone so the wealthier people should be able to pay more for fast food etc. The IRS could lower the tax for the minimum wage earners or give them a larger refund to help lower poverty. How many higher priced fast food items can one eat? The problem is the share of profits is being shifted away from the workers to higher ups and share holders which is proved by the history of the last 30 years or so.

September 16 2013 at 11:40 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment

43 percent of all households will pay no federal income tax this year. Some people say that paying SS taxes and Medicare taxes count but they do not. Those are for personal use only for retirement and medical care after retirement.

September 17 2013 at 2:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Australia has a minimum (and I believe maximum) wage, plus a set benefits package, per industry not a flat minimum wage. That's why it is so high and why it makes sense.

September 16 2013 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

First off, even in other countries, the minimum wage is not a living wage, it is a place to start and learn, not a career. Second, when was the last time you bought something that hd a "Made in Canada" or Made in Austrailia" label on it.

September 16 2013 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dgosbee's comment

You might want to check the origin label on your car - good chance it was built in Canada.

September 16 2013 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to strattonw's comment

Mine was built in Alabama, USA.- Hyundai.

September 17 2013 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

Wrong all places are a place to learn and grow otherwise they need not be in business forcing workers on to social services on the tax payers back. Plenty of competitors will take over your business sector an you can pull pallets at the big box store instead of brow beating.

September 16 2013 at 11:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Going about this all wrong. The push should be to establish a MAXIMIM hourly wage. That would equalize things in a hurry.

September 16 2013 at 2:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Gary's comment

I bought a sweater in the US and it cost me $150.00. T%he sweater is manufactured in Australia. When I went to Australia I wanted to purchase the same style sweater in a different multi-color. The cost of the sweater was $385.00 (U.S.). So you can make $16.00 minimum wage in Autralia but it equates to what we pay our minimum employees in the U.S.

September 16 2013 at 2:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Richard's comment

It's called ripping off the customer for what ever they will pay. The same medications cost less in other countries and more here because the industry gets away with it. Shoes and other items get marketed differently regardless of currency rates etc. Some companies will lie cheat and steal just because their not being stopped from doing so.

September 16 2013 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Australia pays its workers at least $16 per hour, I stopped shipping ebay items to Australia cuz they complain about high international shipping costs over the years? Now they have to pay more using the Global Shipping Services.

September 16 2013 at 2:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply