It is almost impossible to come across someone who is satisfied with his or her salary, whether it is the highest paid employee in an organization or even the owner of the company. Many people would readily claim that what they earn does not even begin to meet their needs in the way they would want – a claim that they would be able to justify in their own way.
However, so many people – especially in developing countries – survive on far less compared to people in developed nations. Of course, the cost of living in developing countries is far less compared to the cost of living in developed nations, which is the reason most of the countries on this list are developing nations.
A number of American companies have moved their operations to China, since the cost of labor and raw materials in China for numerous industries is just a fraction of how much they cost in the United States. This list will surprise you, because China does not even appear on this list, and the overall cost of production in these countries would make China seem extravagant. However, factors such as political stability, good infrastructure, and access to technology, among others, have to be just right to attract investors – which are some of the reasons that these countries lose investors to countries like China.
However, factors such as political stability, good infrastructure, and access to technology among others have to be just right to attract investors, which are some of the reasons that these countries lose investors to countries like China.
The average price for a burger across the United States is anywhere between $6 and $10 – can you imagine that some minimum wage earners in some countries earn the equivalent of one burger in a month? Here are 15 countries with the cheapest labor in the world. These figures are so low they are unbelievable.
15. Madagascar – $490 per year
Most people watch the animated film Madagascar, its sequels and spin-offs and think that perhaps Madagascar is a fictional place. Madagascar is an actual island country in Africa, that is the most unique place on earth. Madagascar is believed to have broken away from Africa and India and has remained isolated for 70 million years, which is part of the explanation why 90% of its wildlife is found only in Madagascar and nowhere else in the world. As you would expect, Madagascar is a leading tourist destination, and a great country in every way.
Madagascar has a mix of African, Asian, Indian, European, and Chinese culture, all of which are a reflection of the rich history and multicultural diversity in the country. Since it is one of the world’s leading suppliers of cloves, ylang-ylang, and vanilla, Madagascar is a great place to set up a business, since the minimum wage here is a paltry $0.23 per hour, which is $490 per year, and the business climate is ideal.
14. Ghana – $488 per year
Football lovers know that African teams in the FIFA World Cup are never expected to go past the quarterfinals, which has always been the case since the inclusion of these countries in the tournament. However, Ghana is one team that always stands out and has one of the best football teams with great achievements in and outside Africa. Ghana is endowed with natural resources including precious metals, hydrocarbons, and industrial minerals, minerals that help it to be one of the great nations in Africa.
Ghana is a middle-income country that has a vision of joining the club of developed nations in the near future. The service industry accounts for 50% of the GDP, the manufacturing industry accounts for 24%, the extractive industry accounts for 5%, and taxes account for the rest. The cheapest labor you can find here in Ghana will cost you $0.23 every hour, which is a very affordable $488 every year.
13. Tajikistan – $487 per year
If you think that Tajikistan is a nation that must be in the same region as countries like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan, then you are right. The reason for all these countries having the similar sounding names goes back to the Persian meaning of the suffix “stan” which, translated to English means, “country” or “place of”. Therefore, you can correctly deduce that Tajikistan literally means “the country of the Tajik”, and apply the same logic to the other countries surrounding it.
This country’s stunning beauty, historical cities, fascinating culture, and incredible luxury accommodation make it not just a wonderful place for tourism, but also for business. Labor in this country is cheap, with the least you should pay being $0.23 per hour, which is about $487 in a year. Huge populations of Tajiks works in Russia and send money home to their families, money that for a long period accounted for close to half of the country’s GDP.
12. The Democratic Republic of the Congo – $472 per year
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the richest countries in the world, riches that the country hardly ever benefits from. The natural resources available in the Congo are far much more than most countries have combined, resources that do not help anyone owing to poor infrastructure, political instability, deep-seated corruption, and extraction by colonialists that brought little to no development. Kinshasa, which is the country’s capital, is the only major city that is not a mining community, and most of the country is largely underdeveloped.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo does not sound like a great place to invest, except for entrepreneurs in the mining industry who can make money despite the challenges the country faces. The hourly rate for the minimum wage earner is only $0.2, which translates to an average annual pay of $472. This amount would be great for a mining company that wants to make serious profits.
11. Liberia – $435 per year
If you happen to glance at Liberia’s flag, you might think that you just saw the American flag, only with much fewer stars. The reason behind the similarity dates back to the establishment of the country back in 1822. Liberia was set up to be the new home of Africans born in the United States of America and freed slaves who would have better chances of a good life away from the racial discrimination they faced in America. Liberia is the oldest modern republic in Africa and the only nation that did not have to fight for independence through fierce fighting.
Liberia is arguably USA’s closest friend in Africa, it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it has been dealing with corruption, and the cost of doing business here is low. The lowest earning Liberians make $0.17 per hour, which translates to $435 a year. This is very low when you compare Liberia to the United States and many other countries on the planet.
10. Malawi – $412 per year
Malawi might not be the leading tourist destination in its region, but it should be a leading destination for both tourists and investors. The amazing weather you will find here and the friendly locals make visitors to this nation want to stay even longer. Lake Malawi gives the impression that this landlocked country has access to the Indian Ocean, being the third largest in Africa and ninth in the world.
Like many developing countries, Malawi’s economy depends on donor support, where the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other countries have to keep bailing the country out. With regard to investment, Malawi is one of the safest investment destinations in Africa. The minimum wage in Malawi stands at $0.17 per hour, which translates to an annual minimum pay of $412. The salary here might not be sufficient even for workers in Malawi, but the cost of living here is far less than it is in developed countries.
9. Guinea-Bissau – $372 per year
Guinea-Bissau is generally hot and humid, experiencing the tropical climate where the rainy season begins in June and ends in November. People love visiting this country owing to its magnificent sandy beaches and flat low-lying terrain. This country’s capital city is called Bissau, a name that was added to the country’s name to avoid confusion with another country called Guinea in Africa. Weird enough, the people of this country are called Bissau-Guineans, as opposed to Guinea-Bissauans, which is what you would expect.
Guinea-Bissau has one of the lowest GDP per capita in the world, with an alarming two-thirds of the population living in abject poverty. Agriculture is the main driver of the economy here, with fish, groundnuts, and cashew nuts making up the bulk of the country’s exports. The poverty in the country contributes to the extremely low minimum wage of $0.17 per hour, which translates to $30 per month together with a bag of rice.
8. Venezuela – $361 per year
Can you imagine a country with the most beautiful women on the planet, with the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the world, with the tallest habitable sculpture on the American continent, and has the least expensive petrol in the world. The country with all these and more is Venezuela, one of the countries in the world with the most number of species. Being one of the most urbanized countries in its region, most Venezuelans live in cities, especially in the capital Caracas.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves on the planet, one of the reasons why citizens here can fill up their tanks with pocket change. Currently, inflation is Venezuela’s worst enemy and the main reason why so many people here live in poverty. Although a country with such high oil deposits ought to be in the league of first world nations, Venezuela is struggling. Minimum wage here is only $0.17 per hour with a possible annual salary of $361.
7. The Gambia – $317 per year
The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa, sharing its borders with no other country but Senegal, but still one with the most controversies especially concerning its leadership. The president of The Gambia once claimed to have found the cure for AIDS, obtainable from boiling herbs. Although the constitution allows for freedom of worship, the president declared The Gambia to be an Islamic nation in December 2015. One interesting thing about this country is that the weekend begins on Thursday and ends on Saturday; this must be great news for the workers but terrible news or their employers.
About a third of the people in The Gambia live below the poverty line, which is an alarming situation for any nation. The economy largely depends on farming, tourism, and fishing, sectors that employ most of the people. The minimum wage in this country stands at $0.13 per hour, which translates to an annual salary of $317.
6. Tanzania – $240 per year
Tanzania is one of the countries in Africa that you must visit if you want to experience the best of what Africa has to offer in terms of wildlife tourism. Tanzania is home to the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro; it shares the largest freshwater Lake in Africa, Lake Victoria, with Kenya and Uganda, and it is home to the amazing wildebeest migration, a wonder it shares with Kenya. Since Tanzania is a former British colony, most of the Tanzanians can communicate in English.
Tanzania is a developing nation and does not have the infrastructure you would expect to find in developed nations, which might not be the ideal environment for business. The cost of living in Tanzania is very low, despite having a huge population living in poverty. The minimum wage in Tanzania stands at $0.1 per hour, and employers can expect to pay the lowest earner $20 per month.
5. Bangladesh – $228 per year
Bangladesh is an amazing country, despite having a history of suffering from numerous cyclones, terrible flooding, some of the worst traffic congestion in cities, and corruption. Hardly will you find a place that can compare to the hospitality and friendliness you will find here in Bangladesh. The country has a vibrant textile industry, the fertile lands are great for the huge farming population here, and the service sector, especially banking, makes Bangladesh an economic power in South Asia. Second only to India, Bangladesh has the highest foreign exchange reserves in South Asia and has one of the lowest costs of living in the world.
What makes this country the ideal place to set up a business is the low cost of labor, with the minimum wage for most industries being a paltry $0.09 per hour. The lowest earning employee in economic sectors without specific wage guidelines gets $19 per month, although the same level employee in the textile industry will get $68 per month. The National Minimum Wage Board reviews these figures every five years.
4. Kyrgyzstan – $181 per year
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked central Asian republic that you should plan to visit one day. With mountains covering 94% of a country’s total landmass and snow covering 30%, this country is truly amazing. Furthermore, Kyrgyzstan has over 40,000 streams and rivers, close to 8000 glaciers, and 1923 lakes of different sizes. Although the country is 199,951 km2, it has a low population of approximately 6 million people.
Kyrgyzstan might be a tough place to do business for entrepreneurs whose business models cannot accommodate the ruggedness of the terrain, the cold throughout the year, and the language barrier in this country. However, almost everything else here is great with the best thing probably being the low cost of labor. How much money would your business save if the minimum wage in your country were $0.09 per hour? For administrative purposes, the least amount payable per month is $14 with $181 being the annual package.
3. Cuba – $108 per year
Cuba is a beautiful Island nation that receives at least 2 million visitors every year, who love it for its amazing climate, beautiful beaches, unique colonial architecture, and so much more. Cuba is the place to go when you want to get away from it all, as long as you are sure you can spend a few days without a McDonald’s or affordable Internet.
Although the United States government does not like its citizens visiting this beautiful island, operating a business here would cost peanuts compared to operating the same business in the US, especially a business where labor costs are too high. Can you imagine paying an hourly rate of $0.05, which translates to at least $9 per month? The minimum wage in Cuba is far much lower than all its neighboring countries, but it would be wise to consider much more than just the minimum labor costs before relocating your business.
2. Georgia – $96 per year
Only a handful of countries can boast of spanning two continents, with one of such countries being Georgia, which is along the border between Europe and Asia. Georgia is a small country with a total surface area of 69,700 km2 and has a small population of slightly more than 3,700,000 people. Georgia might be a great place to go for a holiday but since the official language here is Georgian, communication might be a small challenge.
However, conducting business in Georgia might be a great idea, because the minimum wage here is unbelievably low. The private sector offers the lowest minimum wage of $8 per month, which is what translates to about $0.05 per hour. However, the government is a much better employer, offering a minimum wage of $48 per month, six times what the private sector is offering. Some sources also claim that a more recent hourly rate of $0.24 is in effect, but the rate is very friendly to companies from the west looking for cheap labor.
1. Uganda – $22 per year
In addition to being a beautiful country, Uganda is home to Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, which happens to be the source of The Nile, the second longest river in the world. Uganda is a developing country with an estimated population of 37,800,000 people sharing a country that is 241,038 km2 in size. Since Uganda is a former British colony, the official language used here is English, meaning that there will hardly be a communication barrier between you and the locals.
Uganda has one of the cheapest labor forces in the world, with the minimum hourly rate set at a shockingly low $0.01. This translates to $1.7 per month and $22 a year. This is ridiculously low when you compare the minimum wage with countries such as the United States and Australia. Just in case you thought China had the cheapest labor force, think again. However, the cost of living in Uganda is cheap and you would be surprised to stay there a few days and only spend a fraction of what you spend on a normal day in your own country.