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New York’s $15 minimum wage would be the highest in the world



Fast-food workers in New York City will be paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour by 2018 with the rate rolling out to the rest of the state by 2021.

The move follows more than a year of campaigning on the issue. San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle have all approved a $15 minimum wage for all employees in the three cities.

At today’s exchange rate, $15 is a higher minimum wage than any other major jurisdiction in the world.

Australia comes closest with a $12.50 base hourly wage. Major European economies such as France and Germany (which introduced a minimum wage after the last general election) hover around the $10 and $9 mark respectively. The rate is below $5 an hour in Greece and Spain, which is similar to Japan ($6), and even lower in Brazil where it’s $1.25 – though of course the cost of living varies between states and countries.

An hourly wage of $15 is of course still the exception in the US and many jobs are exempt from the rate. The minimum wage at a federal level is $7.25. Most states remain closer to this figure than to $15. Not only that – there are two states with a minimum wage lower than the federal rate and five states with no minimum wage law at all (however, it should be noted that for employment covered by the relevant act, the federal minimum wage law supersedes state minimum wage laws where the federal minimum wage is greater than the state minimum wage).

By 2019, Emeryville, a small city in the San Francisco Bay Area, will raise its minimum wage to nearly $16.

There are six EU member states – Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland and Sweden – where there is no statutory minimum wage at all. However, it is worth noting that in some of these countries, such as Sweden for example, there is less of a need for one due to collective agreements between employers and unions and higher median salaries compared with other parts of Europe.

The UK chancellor George Osborne’s recent introduction of a “national living wage” will take the base rate to $11.15, rising to $13.93 by 2020.

Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate has recently said he is introducing legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, from its current $7.25.

In 2013, 3 million workers had wages at or below the current federal wage level, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. That represents 3.9% of all hourly-paid employees in the US.

But there are plenty of people earning less than $15 who would see the benefit as a windfall. A report before the changes were rolled out in Seattle suggested that 102,000 workers, 24% of the local workforce, would benefit from the increase. According to Pew Research, around 20.6 million people (or 30% of all hourly, non-self-employed workers aged 18 and older) are “near-minimum-wage” workers.

Minimum wages for US states sourced from US Department of Labour (see detailed notes on some individual states, including employers that are exempt). Minimum wages for Europe are sourced from the WSI Minimum Wage database converted.

A previous version of the graphic in this chart wrongly suggested there was a minimum wage of $10.68 in Portland, Oregon. That is the minimum wage in Portland, Maine. The UK rate has also been updated to $10.08. It had been previously converted with an incorrect exchange.

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