A $22 minimum wage would reflect increases in worker productivity in the United States since the 1960s, says Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Minimum wage in the United States lags considerably behind Luxembourg, but is far ahead of Burundi.
While not proposing that President Barack Obama actually raise the minimum wage to $22 per hour, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren pointed out that such a wage increase would reflect an increase in worker productivity in the nation.
“If we started in 1960 and we said that, as productivity goes up—that is as workers are producing more—then the minimum wage is going to go up the same. And if that were the case, then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour,” she said during a discussion with Dr. Arindrajit Dube, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst that was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.
Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 during his State of the Union address in February.
Wages Around the World
A 2013 European Commission report expresses the minimum wages of European countries and the United States in terms that balance out the differences in the cost of living and currency value to provide a level comparison from country to country.
It puts Luxembourg in the lead with a wage of 1,524 euros (US$1,973) a month after adjustments. The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States trail behind in that order.
The United States is listed at a minimum wage of $1,326 after the adjustments for cost of living and currency.
The lowest wages in Europe are found in Romania, Bulgaria, and Latvia in that order. Romania’s minimum wage is 274 euros (US$354) a month after adjustments.
The lowest minimum wage in Africa provides a stark contrast, however.
Burundi’s minimum wage was about $3.9 a month according to a U.S. Department of State report based on 2009 figures. Uganda and Egypt have the second and third lowest wages respectively, according to a 2011 International Labor Organization report.
“Although the cost of living rose significantly during the year, the legal minimum wage for unskilled workers continued to be 160 Burundian francs ($0.13) per day,” reads the Department of State report.
The latest World Bank estimates, from 2006, show 66.9 percent of Burundi’s population is impoverished. Burundi’s government has taken steps to address the issue of low wages.
It started with public sector wages; it found a great disparity among agencies in how bonuses, and transportation and accommodation allowances were distributed. Burundi began to harmonize public sector wages by balancing these bonuses in 2008.
The United States lags behind most developed nations in terms of its minimum wage, according to a CNN report from Feb. 13. Japan is one of the few developed nations that has a lower minimum wage. Its lowest regional minimum wage is 652 yen (US$6.98), according to CNN. The average minimum wage is about $8.02 an hour, however, higher than the current U.S. minimum wage of $7.25.