Getting by on Bondi Beach

I was at a talk this morning on Australian labour practices. As my day job involves employment law, this was not as random as might seem. The speaker was rattling through some of the key differences between UK and Australian employment law and noted that the minimum wage in Australia was AU$15.51 per hour. In the UK the national minimum wage rate currently stands at £6.08 per hour.

This disparity helped me to understand why buying a small round of four beers in Perth last year had not given much change from a twenty dollar bill. At the very least, it helped explain how Aussies could afford to live in what seemed like an eye-wateringly expensive country.

I’ve been to some other painfully pricey places – Tromsø in the Norwegian Arctic, Iceland (before the crash) and Dublin (both before and after the crash) – but Australia was in a different league. It could make a grown man cry as his wallet dissolved into a pile of worthless shrapnel. The only way to cope was to shrug, suspend reality and credit limits and not think about the credit card bill.

All of this got me wondering how minimum wage levels compared around the world. On a simple back of fag packet calculation, Australia seemed to be the highest. But this did not take into account purchasing power parity (PPP).

Factoring in PPP lets you compare currencies and minimum wages by basing it on the equivalent purchasing power of a dollar (actually an ‘international dollar’, but I’ll leave that level of complexity to the economists).

After crunching the numbers through the IMF’s comparison table, it seems that Australia still tops the charts, but only by a couple of cents. A raft of European countries have relatively high minimum wage rates.

Minimum wage by country (per hour in 2012 US$)

Australia – $10.07 (AU$15.51)

Brazil $2.84 (R$4.78 reais)

Canada (Ontario) – $8.29 (CA$10.25)

China (Shanghai) – $1.99 (¥7.877)

France – $8.58 (€9.22)

Hungary – $3.85 (Ft93,000)

Luxemburg – $10.06 (€10.68)

Russia – $1.08 (руб27.24)

Spain – $5.90 (€4.55)

UK – $8.92 (£6.08)

USA – $7.25 (US$7.25)


Note: if a weekly or monthly minimum wage is prescribed, a per hour rate has been calculated based on a 39-hour week.