Which 9 Nations Pay a Higher Minimum Wage Than the U.S.?

17. Walmart
Ariana Lindquist/Bloomberg

The latest battle over the minimum wage continues to heat up, with critics of the current wage, including me, noting that the average fast food worker in America doesn't currently make enough money to rise above the poverty line. While that's bad enough, it gets even worse when you consider that the average fast food worker already brings home $8.94 an hour -- $1.69 more than the minimum wage. To put it in context, the federal minimum wage has been trending downward since 1968, and -- adjusted for inflation -- is now lower than it was in 1956.

That means that today's McDonald's employee is effectively making about a buck less an hour than a soda jerk brought home when Eisenhower was in the White House. And odds are, that worker probably isn't being offered full-time hours.

But it's not all bad news: internationally, American workers fare up pretty well. Taken at face value, their minimum wage comes in 12th in the world, ahead of Israel, South Korea, and some other industrialized countries. Granted, Australia pays its workers at least $16 per hour and Japan pays them $9.24, but -- in a global context at least, America is doing pretty well.

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The numbers get even narrower when one considers purchasing power parity, or PPP. Basically a measure of the goods and services that a sum of money will purchase, PPP considers how far a dollar will go. In Australia, for example, PPP shifts the minimum wage from $16 to a more measured $9.77.

In a recent article, The Atlantic noted that, accounting for PPP, America's workers actually come in 10th place, behind Canada and New Zealand and ahead of Japan and Austria.

Then again, the average American worker spends four times as much on health care as the average Austrian -- and roughly seven times as much as the average Japanese worker. This expense, which isn't factored into PPP, can be heavy -- and even at times devastating. Still, there's the bright side: we're number 10.

Right behind New Zealand.


Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.