One story that doesn't seem to be going away is that of the minimum wage. The United States often gets tagged with the motto of "greatest country on earth," but when you look how the lowest income earners are being paid, it doesn't seem to fit the title.
In August, thousands of fast food workers went on strike demanding that their pay be doubled and have the ability to form a labor union without the fear of backlash from their employer. Many fast food workers make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and now they are asking for a raise to $15 per hour. The fast food strike brings back an argument made earlier this year by President Obama during is State of the Union address. While President Obama didn't speak of a $15 minimum wage, the president did ask for a federal increase to $9 per hour. The federal minimum wage hasn't been increased since 2008 and millions of Americans are starving for a bump in pay.
When looking at the low minimum wage in the United States, one has to look around the world to see where the "greatest country on earth" compares to how other countries pay their lowest income earners. Earlier this year, the International Labor Organization, OECD and the ConvergEx Group all did multiple studies listing the countries with the highest minimum wages. Putting together data from each study, here is a list of ten countries who have a minimum wage higher than the United States.
Japan - $8.17 per hour
Belgium - $9.52 per hour
Canada - $9.75 per hour
United Kingdom - $9.83 per hour
Netherlands - $10.23 per hour
Ireland - $10.81 per hour
Luxembourg - $11.36 per hour
France - $12.09 per hour
New Zealand - $13.50 per hour
Australia -$16.88 per hour
What's interesting about the results of the studies is that many of the countries on the list have universal health care. The two biggest shockers on the list are Canada and France, two countries that conservative Republicans often point to when attacking the idea of a universal health care system. Even with the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," set in stone, the United States still doesn't have universal health care as the new health care reform doesn't include a government public option and requires all Americans to purchase health care from a private company.
What is also interesting to point out about Canada is that Canadians are now richer than Americans.
"According to data from Environics Analytics WealthScapes published in the Globe and Mail, the net worth of the average Canadian household in 2011 was $363,202, while the average American household’s net worth was $319,970.
As a study recently published in the New York University Law Review pointed out, national constitutions based on the American model are quickly disappearing. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in an interview on Egyptian television, admitted, “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” The natural replacement? The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, achieving the status of legal superstar as it reaches its 30th birthday."
The country with the highest minimum wage, Australia at $16.88 per hour, hasn't had an economy that has fallen into a recession in over two decades. Though the United States and its economy can't always be compared to countries like Canada and Australia on every level, the "greatest country on earth" should take notes on how to treat its lower paying workers who more often than not, want to work hard, pay their bills and put a roof over their families head.