Friday, May 25, 2007

Minimum Wage, Switzerland, and the Iraqi war

Congress voted to increase the minimum wage to seven dollars twenty-five cents per hour by 2009. The federal minimum wage was last increased in 1997.

Working 40 hours a week, taking two weeks unpaid vacation and 8 unpaid holidays will earn a minimum wage worker just over $14,000 a year. I thought it might be interesting to see what other countries do.

The first minimum wage laws were introduced by Australia in 1896. Today over ninety percent of countries have a minimum wage. Australia, Ireland, and Luxembourg all come in at around $22,000 a year, with the UK, France, and the Netherlands close behind at around $20,000. But #1 at $29,000 a year is Switzerland. And we have an immigration problem? How come everyone’s coming here and not to Switzerland?

There were some surprises: Japan’s is nearly 20% lower than the US at $11,300 a year. And Iraq’s is $1,900 a year for skilled workers. Let’s see, including the bill just passed by Congress, the GAO says we spent $400 billion on the war in Iraq, which works out to $46,500 per Iraqi citizen who is at least 20 years of age. You’d think they’d at least make that the minimum wage. But then it would be more than three times the US’s – and nine times more than that of Kansas, whose minimum wage is just $2.65 an hour for jobs not subject to the federal minimum.

It actually turns out that folks are still planning on going to Kansas. Between 1995 and 2025 Kansas expects to gain 102,000 immigrants. And what about Switzerland? According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, 21.6 percent of the population are foreigners, placing Switzerland with one of the highest proportions of foreigners in the world.

I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore!

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