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Minimum Wage on a Global Scale

Thanks to Obama’s crie last week to increase his country’s minimum wage from a shabby $7.25 to a much more palatable $9 an hour in an effort to stem the widening income-inequality gap in his digs, the time is ripe for a big-picture, internationally flavoured snapshot of the stuff.

According to the Huffington Post and the OECD, Canada’s minimum wage, which averages out at US$8.04 countrywide, is among the highest in the world. Next up is the United Kingdom at US$8.53, then New Zealand at US$8.63, Belgium at US$9.52, Australia at US$9.54, France at US$10.02, the Netherlands at US$10.23 and Ireland at US$10.81. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg scores the number-one spot with its princely US$11.36 minimum.       

But it’s tricky to compare the whole fruit bowl of wages clocking in from across the globe, particularly given that the standard against which this financial benchmark is measured varies so wildly. It’s also meaningful to acknowledge the distance between a country’s minimum wage and its median income, an interval that has much to say about the standard of living in a place.

As such, it’s popular practice to apply an imagined international unit of currency to normalize the lot. Using that model, here’s a sampling of the world’s wages — and a sense of where Canada falls into the pack.

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Country                        Gross Annual Wage (international dollars)

Canada                               $16,710

Peru                                    $5,342

Luxembourg                        $19,426

Belize                                  $5,571

Taiwan                                $12,175

United States                      $15,080

Mexico                                $1,753

United Kingdom                  $18,428

Japan                                 $11,254

Sierra Leone                      $211

Switzerland                        $15,457

Rwanda                             $496

So it is that Canada furnishes those workers society has deemed the lowest on the payscale with a living wage that’s pretty well aligned with that in comparably developed countries. If you doubt that and feel under-compensated, imagine how the citizens of Sierra Leone feel when they haul their T4s home at the end of the year.

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