Considering Global Minimum Wages in Terms of Big Macs

How long do low-wage workers have to toil in order to earn enough to buy a burger?

How long does a delivery driver earning minimum wage in India have to work before her or she can buy a Big Mac? (Photo: pashmina/Flickr)

Aug 21, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

McDonald’s has a different cultural significance in each of the 116 countries where the fast-food chain has restaurants. It’s cool Americana for a certain set of French youth (an attitude that has some worrying about the hegemony of Gallic cuisine), a symbol of Western imperialism for some in the Balkans, and a sign of a complicated, shifting relationship with capitalism in current and former communist countries.

But inside of that local frame, some things remain generally the same—namely that the food is cheap and fast. That’s part of the reason why The Economist has used The Big Mac Index—a comparative listing of burger prices from around the world—as a means of gaging disparities in currency values since 1986.

In light of the recent debate about wages—both at fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s and, more generally, the minimum wage—the global brokerage firm ConvergEx Group tweaked the The Economist’s index to compare the earnings of minimum-wage workers in various countries in terms of how long they need to work to buy one Big Mac. Over at Business Insider, Matthew Boesler has the ConvergEx numbers displayed in a straightforward chart.

Unsurprisingly, Australia is the country where workers have to put in the least amount of time—just 18 minutes—before they earn enough to buy a Big Mac; the minimum wage there is $15.96. With our paltry $7.25 per hour, American minimum-wage earners have to clock 35 minutes to earn a burger’s worth of pay; we’re sandwiched between Japan (31 minutes) and Greece (53 minutes). France and the U.K. come in behind Australia at number two and three.

And at the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s India, where an employee earning minimum wage would have to work 347 minutes—nearly six hours—before earning enough rupees to buy a Big Mac.