5 Countries With the Strongest Minimum Wages

May 14th 2015

Laura Donovan

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) just released a report revealing the countries with the highest minimum wages, and America didn't even make the top ten. With April's Fight for $15 rally still fresh in our memories, it's not all that shocking.

Looking at 27 countries with nationwide minimum wage rates, OECD calculated what minimum wage earners take home after taxes. The U.S. ranked 11th, with minimum wage workers receiving $6.26 an hour in take-home pay. Before taxes, the U.S. minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Australia tops the list of countries with the best minimum wage policies, with workers ages 21 and over taking home $9.54 after taxes and deductions. Luxembourg, Belgium, Ireland, and France fall right below Australia in best minimum wage rates:

Minimum wage in other countries

This year, Germany put a minimum wage into effect for the first time ever, with workers taking home $7.19 after taxes.

"[Australia has] a high minimum wage. And interestingly they have a low tax burden," Herwig Immervoll, the author of the OECD report, told CNN. "[Australians] recognize that supporting low wage earners through the tax system is important."

According to the findings, a minimum wage worker in Australia with two children would only have to work six hours a week to remain above poverty levels, as they'd receive state assistance in this circumstance. A minimum wage worker with two kids in America, on the other hand, would need to put in 50 hours a week to avoid poverty. 

The OECD didn't factor Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, and Italy into the report because these countries don't have national minimum wage laws. The Nordic countries tend to pay minimum wage workers very well, however, thanks to strong unions.

“The unions [in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark] felt that a national minimum wage would interfere with collective bargaining, and it might even bring the price of labor down,” Robin Chater, secretary general of the Federation for European Employers, told Forbes in 2009.

Compare fast food industries.

While McDonald's workers in America can expect to make $9.90 an hour starting July 1, McDonald's workers in Denmark can earn up to $21 an hour, with the average full-time employee raking in $45,000 a year before taxes. Even though Denmark doesn't have a national minimum wage law in place, fast food workers are required to earn a minimum of $20 an hour due to an agreement between Denmark’s largest union and Danish employers organization, Horesta. Even though Denmark's high tax rates leave fast food workers with roughly $28,000 a year after deductions, that's still more than the average full-time McDonald's worker earns annually.

Fight for $15, which encourages better wages for fast food workers in the U.S. and organized nationwide demonstrations over the minimum wage in April, will be protesting outside McDonald's annual shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Ill., on May 21. Fight for $15 will present McDonald's with a million petition signatures demanding a raise of the corporation's minimum wage to $15 an hour and support for an employee union. Earlier this month, Fight for $15 released this powerful video of a McDonald's worker to lead up to the next protest: