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How Low Would You Go? The Best and Worst Minimum Wages

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How Low Would You Go? The Best and Worst Minimum Wages

Where would you be best off working for the minimum wage, and where should you avoid if you’re a minimum wage worker who wants to live above the bread line? We’ve gathered key information on the best and worse places to work for minimum wage. We were stunned to find that the country with the highest minimum wage in the world has an hourly rate 563 times higher than that of the lowest.

The minimum wage rates are set according to federal laws, varying vastly between countries. The laws vary depending on your age, so there’ll be a difference between the minimum wage rates for workers between 16 and 18, workers over 18 and workers over 21. Qualifications and experience can make a difference too. In some countries on our list, skilled workers are entitled to a minimum wage rate that’s about 20-25% higher than the pay rate for unskilled workers.

One of the strangest things our research revealed, though, is that some countries don’t actually have a minimum wage rate at all – Germany, Italy and Singapore included. Some others – among them the Congo, Pakistan and Kenya – only have partial minimum wage requirements. The United States of America has a minimum wage federal law entitlement of $7.25, which places it among the average international rates; but that’s still two times lower than the country with the highest minimum wage entitlement in the world.

Some of the figures in our bottom three countries are dreadfully low, and in the top three they seem surprisingly high, but we’ll contextualise the rates with the living expenses in each country too. Don’t be deceived by the relative differences in living costs though – the rates of pay are still largely disproportionate. A minimum wage worker in the country at the top of our list can buy a carton of milk with earnings from less than 13 minutes of paid work, while a worker in one of the lowest paid countries will need to work for almost 2 hours to pay for the same item.

The world of the minimum wage is a tough place to live in at the best of times, but what about the worst of times?  To get an idea of the plight of the minimum wage worker, check out our list of the three lowest – and top three highest – minimum wage rates in the world in 2013.


3. Afghanistan – $0.57 per hour

Afghanistan has the third lowest minimum wage rate in the world right now. As per Afghani government standards, workers are entitled to a minimum rate of $0.57 per hour. In the local currency, Afghanistan workers earn approximately 5000 Afghani per month so a full-time worker could expect to earn a minimum salary of $1178 per year. In Afghanistan, the cost of living is low relative to the US and most parts of Europe, but it’s still not proportionate to the minimum wage. For a carton of milk in Afghanistan you’ll pay $0.80 and a bottle of water costs $0.74. You can dine out in a cheap restaurant for $4 and a cup of coffee shouldn’t cost more than $2. You should be able to rent a one bedroom apartment in the city centre for less than $250 per month, and buy a meter square of real estate in the city centre for $1000.

2. India – $0.28 per hour


A worker in India is entitled, by federal law standards, to a minimum pay of $0.28 per hour. This leaves Indian workers earnings between $2 and $3 a day, and less than $700 a year. In local currency, this equates to about 100 to 200 Indian Rupees per day. The cost of living is low, though. A bottle of water in India sells for $0.25 – that’s 15 Rupees. A carton of milk costs $0.50 and a dozen eggs should cost less than $1. Your rent will probably come in at about $160 a month, but real estate costs  are relatively high at an average at $1000 per meter square of an apartment in the city centre, which is around 65000 Rupees.

1. Sierra Leone – $0.03


It would take a minimum wage worker in Sierra Leone over 5 days to earn enough to buy a Big Mac. As of 2013, this country’s standard minimum wage requirement is $0.03 per hour, which is approximately 130 Sierra Leonean Leones. A full time worker in Sierra Leone expects to get paid less than $6 per month, which is approximately 25000 Sierra Leonean Leones, and less than $60 per year. Of course, the cost of living is necessarily incredibly low. A bag of clean filtered water, which is usually sold in large quantities of 10L each, costs less than $1 and a loaf of bread costs $0.20. The minimum wage is less than appealing, but you can buy a pretty luxurious mansion for as little as $150 000 here.


3. New Zealand – $11.18 per hour


The gorgeous landscape in New Zealand – famously home of the Lord of the Rings movies – is not the country’s only appeal. It also offers workers one of the top three minimum wage rates in the world. Here, workers 18 and older earn a minimum wage of $11.18 per hour, which is NZ$13.75. Teenage workers get a slightly lower pay, at at a rate of $8.95 per hour or NZ$11. Even at this lower rate, teenage workers in New Zealand get paid 298 times more than a worker in Sierra Leone. A full time minimum waged employee in New Zealand earns an average annual salary of $23,252.

The cost of living in New Zealand is relatively expensive, though, with a carton of milk, priced at $2 (NZ$2.5) costing almost twice as much our next top two countries. A bottle of water sells for $2.6 (NZ$3) and to rent a city centre one bedroom apartment  you’ll need to shell out $1100 each month. Buying real estate is a better deal in NZ though; it’s $3300 per meter square for a city center apartment which is at least three times cheaper than real estate prices in the top two countries on the list.

2. France – $12.09 per hour


France is the only European country in the top three as of 2013. An unskilled worker in France, over the age of 18, will earn at least $12.09 per hour. For a full time job of 40 hours per week, you’ll be raking in $29,611 per year at very least. In Euro, that’s about €11.10 per hour – and the annual salary €21,766 – that’s a shocking 403 times more than a worker in Sierra Leone. In France, a bottle of water costs approximately $2.80 (€2), a carton of milk is priced at $1.35 (€1) and a meal in a restaurant can cost no more than $16 (€12). France’s capital, Paris, is famously expensive – it’s especially notorious for its unfeasibly expensive real estate market. To rent a one bedroom apartment in the city center of the capital, Parisians will often pay over $1550 (€1150). If you want a bohemian Parisian hideout of your own, be prepared to pay $14000 (€10000) upwards per square meter.

1. Australia – $16.88 per hour


With a gross domestic product of over $1.52 trillion in 2012, Australia can probably afford to have the highest minimum wage rates in the world. Workers over 18 years of age are paid a minimum wage of $16.88 per hour, equating to about $16.37 per hour. It’s not surprising that Australia is an enormously popular spot for emigrants – indeed, it’s been the single most popular choice for emigrating Brits since 1996. Full-time workers in Oz can expect a minimum salary of $33,355 per year, according to the federal standards set by the Work Fair Australia. That’s a staggering 563 times higher than the minimum wage in the country at the bottom of our list, Sierra Leone. Of course, the cost of living is Australia is also significantly higher than other countries. To rent a one bedroom apartment in the city center of Sydney, locals need to pay just over $2 000 per month, which is approximately A$2300. You could pay up on $10,000 per square meter for a one bedroom apartment in the center of Sydney. For your basics, a bottle of water is priced at around $2.30 and a carton of milk at $1.30.

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