The Top 10 Countries with the Highest Minimum Wages

Comparing the minimum wages of different countries is a difficult task. The different countries have different laws and enforcement mechanisms, with some setting minimum wages by region, while others do it by industry. Some let management and workers set the minimum wage by way of a collective bargaining agreement. Others also have a graduated system in which the minimum wage depends on the age range of an individual.

There are also countries that do have a minimum wage law but whose enforcement leaves a lot to be desired. In those cases, the effective minimum wage is actually a lot lower than the legislated one. Aside from these, countries have different mandatory deductions for taxes, welfare and social security contributions. Meanwhile, some, like Singapore, does not have any minimum wage level.

Still, here is a list of the top 10 countries with the highest minimum wages on an annual basis. These are gross numbers, meaning mandatory deductions are not included. For purpose of easy analysis, only countries that have a tight range of minimum wages across the nation are included. Numbers have also been converted to dollar figures and reflect purchasing power so that they may be compared with each other properly and correctly.


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10 Switzerland - $15,457 per year


Switzerland, as a country, actually does not have a minimum wage written into law. It does have collective bargaining agreements between its workers and management and almost the entire population is covered by it. The minimum salary of skilled workers ranges from 2,800 to 5,300 Swiss francs, while that of unskilled workers may be anywhere between 2,200 to 4,200 Swiss francs.


9 San Marino - $15,707 per year

San Marino’s working population earns a minimum of €7.04 per hour. Workers in the country are usually employed in the finance, services or tourism sectors. The country has a highly stable economy and one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe. The workers, thus, are well provided for not just in terms of wages but also in benefits.


8 New Zealand - $16,462 per year

New Zealand enacted a law in April of 2012, mandating that workers who are in training and those who are between 16 to 17 years old get a minimum wage of NZ$10.80 per hour. The amount increases once a worker reaches 18 years of age, with the minimum wage for the higher bracket at NZ$13.50 per hour. Those under 16 are considered minors and thus should not be allowed to work in the first place. Thus, no minimum wage law was set for them.


7 Canada - $16,710 per year

The minimum wage in Canada depends on the province or territory where one is based. But generally, the amount ranges from C$9.50 to C$11 per hour. The country has a highly-globalized, mixed economy that is significantly integrated to the United States. It has one of the lowest level of income disparity in the world.


6 France - $17,108 per year

France has a relatively detailed law for its workers with regards to amount of money earned and time served. The minimum wage is €9.40 per hour, which translates to €1,425.67 per month. The amount of minimum salary presumes that the worker has logged in seven hours of work each day of the workweek, or a total of 151.67 hours in one month. These numbers were enacted on December 23, 2011.


5 United Kingdom - $18,428.24 per year

On October 1, 2011, the United Kingdom enacted a law outlining the new minimum wage structure for workers in the country. Those who are below 18 years old and who have finished compulsory education must be paid a minimum of £3.68 per hour. Those between the ages of 18 to 20 years old must be paid a minimum wage of £4.98 per hour. Once a person reaches 21 years old, his minimum wage should increase to £6.19 per hour.


4 Belgium - $18,813 per year

Belgium has a minimum wage law that took effect on December 1, 2012. It covers the working population starting at the age of 21. For those who are 21 years old, the minimum wage is €1,501.82 per month. Once a person reaches 21 years and six months of age, the minimum wage increases to €1,541.67 a month, provided that he has had at least six months of service already. Once a person becomes 22 years old, the minimum wage increases to €1,559.38 per month, provided that he has had at least one year of service already. These relatively generous structure complements the country’s numerous welfare benefits and allowances.


3 Ireland - $18,965 per year

The last time that the minimum wage law was adjusted in Ireland was on July 1, 2007. The minimum hourly wage for its workers is €8.65. Ireland is heavily dependent on foreign direct investments, thus, it plays host to a number of multinational corporations.


2 Luxembourg - $19,426 per year

Luxembourg has a relatively simple wage structure that took effect on October 1, 2011. The minimum wage takes into consideration a person’s experience, age and maturity. The minimum wage for those 18 years old and above is €1,801.49. This amount, however, applies only to unqualified workers. If a worker is considered to be skilled or qualified, the minimum wage amount is increased by 20 percent to €2,161.79. On the other hand, if the worker is still an adolescent and below 18 years old, the minimum wage level goes down by 20 to 25 percent to €1,351.12 to €1,441.19.


1 Netherlands - $23,029 per year

The latest minimum wage structure followed by the Netherlands took into effect last January 1, 2012. Workers who are at least 23 years old must be paid a minimum of €66.77 every day, or €333.85 every week or €1,446.60 every month. For those below the age of 23, the amounts may be drastically lowered from 30 percent to as much as 85 percent. Those between the ages of 15 and 22 can be paid as low as €216.99 to €1,012.62. Note that while the numbers may be lower than Luxembourg and Belgium, the Dutch does provide a number of mandatory bonuses and benefits, thus significantly bumping up the annual figure.

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