In America, fast-food workers are fighting for living wages to improve their quality of life and the average $10 an hour paycheck, but in Denmark, fast-food workers live fairly comfortably with, at minimum, a $20 per hour average hourly wage.
In a recent Reuters blog post, a woman wrote about her $21-per-hour wages at a McDonald’s in Denmark. According to the blog post, fast-food workers in her country are unionized and enjoy five weeks’ vacation in addition to double the salary of the average American fast-food worker. The woman also stated that in Denmark, most fast-food workers are students or young people looking to earn money to pay off debt while attending school. But in America, most fast-food workers are past high school or college age, and an average of 30 percent of fast-food workers are trying to support their children.
The difference between the average compensation for American and Danish fast-food workers is startling. But is it possible for Americans to catch up? Analysts say it’s difficult to tell.
“Trying to compare the business and labor practices in Denmark and the U.S. is like comparing apples to autos,” Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association, a group based in Washington that promotes franchising and has many fast-food companies as members, told The New York Times.
Denmark is a small country with a 30-percent higher cost of living than America, but even adjusted for inflationary differences, Danish workers earn the equivalent of 3.4 Big Macs an hour, while Americans earn 1.8. Also, even though the tiny country has no minimum wage law, according to the unions, the lowest wage a salaried food worker can earn is $20 per hour.
“We don’t want there to be a big difference between the richest and poorest, because poor people would just get really poor,” Martin Drescher, the general manager of airport restaurants operator HMSHost Denmark, told The New York Times. “We don’t want people living on the streets. If that happens, we consider that we as a society have failed.”
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi