Burgernomics: Comparing McWages Across the Globe

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The latest global economic indicator may be the simplest of all.

Princeton University economics professor Orley Ashenfelter has introduced something called "burgernomics," published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Ashenfelter has spent the past decade researching McWages around the world in an effort to find out how much food an hour of work buys. Ashenfelter found that wage rates of workers using similar skills in similar jobs can differ by as much as 10 to 1 across the globe.

For example, it would take nearly eight times as much McWork to buy a Big Mac in India as it would in the United States. An Indian worker must now spend 195 minutes frying up some french fries or assembling paneer wraps to earn enough money for a Big Mac. Canadian workers get the best deal. They can afford a Big Mac in under a half-hour of work.

From 2000-2007, McWages grew about 8 percent in India, but they have slowed down so much in the past five years that workers in India now have to work nearly a half-hour longer to buy a Big Mac. McDonald's workers in South Africa, Japan and parts of Western Europe also lost ground from 2007 to 2011. McDonald's workers earn the most in Denmark and the least in Pakistan.

Of course, the comparison is far from perfect. McDonald's doesn't actually sell Big Macs in India. Instead, it offers the Chicken Maharaja Mac.

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