Australia’s Take On The Minimum Wage

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Source: Ingenious Press

Australia likes to call itself “The Lucky Country”, and in many respects this is hardly an exaggeration. It is one of the few developed societies on Earth which has coasted through the global economic downturn relatively unscathed, and there are plenty of good-paying jobs available for those with adequate skills.

Furthermore, if gung-ho “U-S-A! U-S-A! We’re Number One!” chanting American citizens need a painful pill to swallow, the country is literally killing the United States in almost every conceivable aspect of national performance which can be universally construed as positive (ie. not involving military prowess, prisoner population, largest waist size, or Mississippi levels of religiosity).

Unemployment is lower, gun crime is lower, homicide rates are lower, HIV infections are lower, public schools are safe and of high quality, healthcare is universal and efficient (unlike “Obamacare”), Australia’s large cities routinely rank in the world’s top 10 in livability, and the overall quality of life is arguably much higher for the average citizen. Oh, and unlike North Dakota (the only state in the U.S. with a truly prosperous economy and budget surplus), an Australian “winter” throughout much of the country is top-notch.

But the economic aspect which most significantly sets the two countries apart in recent years has been Australia’s considerably higher minimum wage. At nearly $17 U.S. dollars per hour, it’s more than double the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Now before I go any further, it’s only fair to point out that Australia has a noticeably higher cost of living than the United States, and the minimum wage seems incredibly high in U.S. dollar terms largely due to the strong Aussie dollar vs. the weak American dollar (roughly at parity for much of the past several years). However, even when taking these factors into account, a full-time minimum wage worker in Australia is indeed afforded a lifestyle more akin to a ‘living wage’ than their American counterparts.

This is attributed to the country having an organization called ‘Fair Work Australia’,  that literally sits down every year and reviews economic conditions (such as inflation), productivity levels across the economy, and then sets the minimum wage accordingly. Again, this organization comes together every year for a revision of the minimum wage, which is almost always upwards.

By comparison in the United States, the federal minimum wage was set at $5.15 per hour for the span of an entire decade between 1997 and 2007, and was gradually raised to the current level of $7.25 per hour by 2009. Despite the increase, I can guarantee you a lot more groceries and gasoline could have been purchased at $5.15 per hour in 1997 than $7.25 per hour in 2013.

A stronger union presence throughout Australia is also attributed to the living wage standard in the country. While I do not blindly endorse unions (they have considerable positives and negatives for different parties involved), it is commendable that Australia strives to ensure that it’s hard-working citizens are adequately compensated in relation to market forces, and to minimize reliance on government assistance as much as possible.

The accompanying video from Australian Unions shows that Australians have a lot to be thankful for, acknowledging that many other places in the world have far more dire economic conditions and people who struggle to get by everyday. They also express their concern that a growing income divide in Australia could breed a new class of ‘American-style working poor’ who struggle to meet even the most basic living expenses unless there is a $30 per week rise to the minimum wage.

You know the United States is truly in a mess when the outside world looks to the country as a prime example of what to avoid for the sake of their own economic future, rather than a place to be admired. The video later takes a second subtle jab at the United States near the end of the clip, with the statement “after all, nobody wants to live in a country where a full-time job doesn’t pay for life’s most basic needs”. Well played Australia. Well played. I’m pretty sure millions upon millions of people in the United States would agree with you.

This article first appeared on Ingenious Press. Follow us on our Facebook and Twitter Pages for weekly updates on independent news and other alternative media.

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