Minimum Wage

The Fast Food Industry In Denmark Offers Something Its U.S. Counterpart Does Not: Living Wages

Over the course of this year, those working in non-degree, minimum wage jobs — especially in fast food — have called for the government to mandate the wage up to a living wage. The Inquisitr reported on the latest on this, in which Congress said they would live on the current minimum wage for a week to push its importance. Democrats and Progressives are the biggest supporters — but are reportedly hypocritical too. A progressive group built a website informing the need for a $20 minimum wage, but their webmaster is only paid $13 per hour. Alison Lundergan Grimes said she supports minimum wage increases but doesn’t apply it to her family restaurant.

With all the chaos surrounding the minimum wage, it seems as if an increase in minimum wage is more trouble than it appears to be. However, one country seems to have gotten it right, as it is reported their fast food workers are paid a living wage. That country is Denmark!

According to the Daily Meal, fast food workers in Denmark live a fairly comfortable life with a minimum wage of $20 per hour. The story was given more notice when Reuters published a blog post of a woman who earned $21 per hour while working at a McDonald’s there. She even wrote that the fast food industry is unionized, so they also enjoy five weeks of vacation in addition to a salary double of that of the average American fast food worker. The big difference between Denmark and the United States is the intentions of the fast food labor force in both countries. Denmark’s fast food workers are mostly students and young people looking to earn money to pay off debt while attending school. In America, fast food workers are mostly past high school or college age, in which 30 percent of them try to support children.

Because of Denmark’s success to implement a living wage for their fast food workers, liberal think tanks, progressives, and Democrats are making examples of them as the overall outcome if the United States were to increase minimum wage to a living wage. John Schmitt, an economist at the Center for Economic Policy Research, enforces this.

“We see from Denmark that it’s possible to run a profitable fast-food business while paying workers these kinds of wages.”

The New York Times, however, reports that such thinking is heavily flawed. Many American economists and business groups state that the economies of the United States and Denmark are different. Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association, explained this along with details on why they are so different.

“Trying to compare the business and labor practices in Denmark and the U.S. is like comparing apples to autos. Denmark is a small country. Unions dominate, and the employment system revolves around that fact.”

Denmark has no minimum wage law but because of their 3F union and Horesta (Danish employers group), $20 is the lowest the fast food industry can pay under agreement. United States citizens, however, have wages so low that half of the nation’s fast food workers rely on some form of public assistance.

The Inquisitr, at one point, did a report that mandating the minimum wage to a higher pay by force wouldn’t work but could only be done if businesses and corporations are willing to trickle-down surplus to their employees. In some way, this is what is happening in Denmark as the profits made from fast food restaurants are being passed down to employees. Martin Drescher, the general manager of HMSHost Denmark, was more than happy to talk about this.

“The company doesn’t get as much profit, but the profit is shared a little differently. We don’t want there to be a big difference between the richest and poorest, because poor people would just get really poor. We don’t want people living on the streets. If that happens, we consider that we as a society have failed.”

What are your views on the minimum wage that fast food workers in Denmark make? Do you think such a model can truly be incorporated into the fast food industry here in the United States?

[Image via Bing]

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