By the standards of other rich nations, the U.S. minimum wage, at $7.25 an hour, can look pretty measly. Australia's minimum for full-time adult employees works out to almost $15, these days. France's is around $12. For almost a year now, American fast food workers have been going on strike to demand that kind of pay.
But in some senses, those high wages abroad aren't quite as high as they sound. The reason: cost of living. Melbourne, where about a fifth of all Australians live, is the fourth most expensive city in the world according to The Economist's Intelligence Unit—about 36 percent pricier than New York. Making rent and putting food on the table in Paris, meanwhile, is about 28 percent costlier than in NYC. When it comes to everyday living in these countries, money doesn't stretch as far as in the states.
Thankfully for us, economists have come up with a concept that lets us adjust exchange rates to account for the differences local prices. It's called "purchasing power parity," or PPP. When applied to minimum wages around the world, it tends to even out the differences, a bit. As shown in the chart below, based on 2012 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Australia's minimum wage is actually closer to $10 once purchasing power is taken into account. France's also drops to around $10. Both are still higher than America's, but not quite as eye-popping. (Scroll to the bottom for the table version of this chart).