I’m making $21 an hour at McDonald’s. Why aren’t you?

By Louise Marie Rantzau
May 15, 2014

mcdonalds -- topI work for McDonald’s and I make $21 an hour.

No, that isn’t a typo. It’s really my salary.

You see, I work for McDonald’s in Denmark, where an agreement between our union and the company guarantees that workers older than 18 are paid at least $21 an hour. Employees younger than 18 make at least $15 — meaning teenagers working at McDonald’s in Denmark make more than two times what many adults in America earn working at the Golden Arches.

To anyone who says that fast-food jobs can’t be good jobs, I would answer that mine isn’t bad. In fact, parts of it are just fine. Under our union’s agreement with McDonald’s, for example, I receive paid sick leave that workers are still fighting for in many parts of the world. We also get overtime pay, guaranteed hours and at least two days off a week, unlike workers in most countries. At least 10 percent of the staff in any given restaurant must work at least 30 hours a week.

mcmoneyBut in New York last week, I met fast-food workers from around the world who aren’t as lucky as I am. We marched through Midtown Manhattan demanding a fair wage and respect at the workplace.

Many of the U.S. workers I met make less than $9 an hour. And unlike in Denmark, where most fast-food workers are young people looking to make extra money while in school, the vast majority of U.S. fast-food workers are adults trying to support their families. Roughly 70 percent are in their 20s or older, according to a recent study, and more than a quarter are raising kids.

I met Jessica Davis, for example, who works at a McDonald’s in Chicago and has two daughters— one 4 years old and the other 4 months old. After working four years at McDonald’s, she makes $8.98 an hour and has no stable work schedule.

How can fast-food companies expect employees to work hard but not pay them enough to live on? All fast-food workers should be able to support themselves while helping large companies like McDonald’s make huge profits.

Employees also deserve a voice in their workplace — as we have in Denmark — and McDonald’s should respect the right of employees in all countries to organize and speak for themselves.

McDonald’s didn’t give us our union. We had to fight for it. It was a five-year struggle that involved many demonstrations like the ones that will stretch across the globe on Thursday.

In Denmark, I will be in one of them.


PHOTO (TOP): Protesters march outside McDonald’s in Los Angeles, California, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

PHOTO (INSERT): A customer exits a McDonald’s restaurant as members of ‘MoveOn’ shout slogans against McDonald’s in front of the restaurant in Times Square, New York, December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz


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Anymore its how much the CEO and boardmembers make.. They have most of the factories to 3rd world countries for the lowest wages they can find with the least regulations so they can destroy the enviorment in those same countries.. They have no sense of country or national pride, they will sell out any and all countries for profit. Its just that simple.

Posted by bandaide1 | Report as abusive

Suffering that produces anger is a tool of our growing facism. We take away rights because of fear and the possibility of violence. If we make people angry enough and they act impulsively we may be able to complete the facist coup and declare martial law. Standard facist technique really. I thought that was obvious. So poverty and suffering are created to create fear and potentially violence and that is a legitimate reason for a police state. Throw in a couple of false flag operations and you have the creation of the fourth reich.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

The Big Mac Index places socialist Denmark as the fourth most expensive hamburger in the world

Posted by ShdwRdr | Report as abusive

Hahaha :). What you have failed to mention in your $21 an hour post is that you also give 55% of your income right back to the government in income taxes! Having lived in both countries I can tell you that everything you pay in taxes in Denmark, and have to buy with what is left over, is grossly higher priced than here in the USA. Your $21 an hour has about the same buying power that our minimum wage does. So beware all who read this post, there is something fishy in Denmark ;). You would pay nearly 2 1/2 times the price we do here in the US for a McDonald’s Bigmac, and 2-3 times what we pay for a gallon of gas! All these higher wages come with a price-tag.

Posted by Elarsen | Report as abusive

And the cost of living in Denmark is way higher than the US. Consumer prices are 50% to 75% higher. So basically, you’d be looking at about 16 bucks for lunch at McDonalds in the US, to meet that pay. Good luck getting the public to go for that.

This is why you can’t compare the US to places like Denmark. The US public will never pay those prices, nor pay those kinds of taxes. Denmark probably also doesn’t have hordes of immigrants, who have multiple kids by the time they’re 19. But people don’t seem to get this.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

You don’t live in America where corporations have the legal right to spend enough money to control our government and therefore our people. Great a nation as we are, we are becoming less and less a democracy…even less and less a republic. And as long as the GOP blocks reforms in the House, and as long as former employees and current puppets of the Koch brothers, (Scalia and Thomas), are on the U.S.Supreme Court nothing will change. All the GOP-appointed justices are young and will be screwing-up our country for years and years to come. But…Constitutional Amendments are on their way. Americans are beginning to get the picture and realizing the bull in the GOP candidates wrapping themselves in the flag and talking jobs, jobs, jobs…all the while moving more overseas for their own profits and undermining the middle class which is what made America great and its economy strong.

Posted by writergolfcoach | Report as abusive

Funny, the author fails to mention what the menu prices are like in Denmark, and his arguments rely on a false equivalence between a McDonald’s in Denmark, and a McDonald’s in the US.

The fact that the majority of US fast workers are adults “trying” to support families is completely irrelevant to what they’re paid — if their McJobs aren’t lucrative enough to support their lifestyle, perhaps they should develop skills that are better valued by employers and get a real job.

Posted by mcs74 | Report as abusive


Yea, you should try out and take a job in McDonald’s

Posted by Radek.kow1 | Report as abusive

The Big Mac Index places socialist Denmark as the fourth most expensive hamburger in the world – almost a full $1 more expensive than the same sandwich in The Land of the Free. While Denmark has been ranked one of the most economically free European countries, it also imposes stringent regulations on businesses. Taxes don’t help, either; Denmark has raised its value added tax (VAT) from the low single digits a few decades ago, to its current 25% level. Income taxes are as high as 59%. And if you eat too many Big Macs, you might get hit by Denmark’s “fat tax”.

http://www.economist.com/content/big-mac -index

http://nomadcapitalist.com/2013/11/24/to p-5-expensive-countries-on-the-big-mac-i ndex/

Posted by Aeternus_Menti | Report as abusive

Sign behind the guy in the picture reads: $2 Bacon McDouble. Yeah, pay everyone $50K per year to make $2 sandwiches…great business model! hahaha. Let us know how well that works out for you owners in the long run.

Posted by CF137 | Report as abusive

Ray Kroc believed in decent wages and decent profits…what would he say…?

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive

You can’t compare wages out of context. What is the cost of living in Denmark? What are the prices for menu items in Denmark? Without these facts, saying “I make $21/hr” is useless.

Posted by mizugori | Report as abusive

I ate lunch at a McDonalds just outside of Copenhagen, Denmark recently. Had a quarter-pounder with cheese meal (they don’t call it quarter-pounder there of course) and the total with tax came to the equivalent of $14, roughly double what I would pay in the US. I am guessing that people in Denmark think of going to McDonalds as an expensive, rarely-enjoyed special treat rather than how we in the US tend to view grabbing some fast food.

Fine, each society is entitled to their own choices I suppose. It doesn’t necessarily mean that what is right for the Danes is therefore right for people in the US.

Posted by Randy549 | Report as abusive

This is a complex issue, and many of the comments about the difference in McDonalds prices between the U.S. and other countries is well taken. Most prices are cheaper in the U.S., both because the consumer economy is more competitive and because there is no national sales tax (VAT). In the U.S., in fact, McDonalds is one of the “go to” places for homeless people, because it is one of the few places where it is possible to buy a meal with an amount of money that can be obtained by pan handling (begging).

On other other hand, McDonalds provides instructions to its employees about how to apply for public assistance to supplement their McDonalds income, which is kind of outrageous.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive


go forth to the web and look at danish taxation rates

anything over 7600USD is subject to 23-28% municipal income tax
plus 8% “health care tax”
plus (near) 4% federal income tax.

you can get paid billions, but when they tax away by the hundreds of millions, there’s no gain. you work, the government take pretty much everything.

Posted by Breadie | Report as abusive

Want to know the price difference between a US and a Danish Big Mac? According to “Top 5: Most expensive countries on the Big Mac Index”, it’s about $1 US. McDonalds won’t go out of business if they paid US workers what they pay in Denmark.

Posted by willshetterly | Report as abusive

If unions, governments, or both force wages up in restaurants, in the short run what is likely is that in many places there will be lower restaurant sales, fewer workers hired, and cutbacks in work hours. In the longer run, unions and politicians forcing up restaurant wages will thereby provide incentives for businesses to buy labor saving technology, which will dampen demand for restaurant workers.

Posted by ExDemocrat | Report as abusive

No one is going to pay double or more to eat at McDonalds, that isn’t going to happen. And quite frankly those working at McDonalds are not worth $15 an hour. These are the jobs that used to be the first jobs people worked in their lives, not careers for people with children. If you are above the age of 23 and working at McDonalds to support a family, you are doing it wrong.

Posted by TheNewWorld | Report as abusive

A little research for everyone making points about wages and prices. The average price of a Big Mac in the US is $4.68. In Denmark, it’s $5.37.

So…..no, prices aren’t much higher.

Posted by KeithMcL | Report as abusive

“During my Senate campaign, I ate a No. 11 at McDonald’s many, many times a week and I know the price on that one, $7.19. … According to the data on the analysis of what would happen if we raised the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years, the price increase on that item would be about four cents, so instead of being $7.19 it would be $7.23. Are you telling me that’s unsustainable?”

- Elizabeth Warren

Posted by JamesChirico | Report as abusive

Sounds like Denmark is a democracy where decent benefits are for all citizens. Citizen perks like state sponsored healthcare, state sponsored higher level education and state enforced decent minimum wages.

When you compare against the USA that is state sponsored capitalist society (meaning laws favoring corporations vs citizens) – you do not really have democracy, you have state sponsored oppression.

I bet living in Denmark for all citizens – rich and poor is a happier safer experience that living in the USA.

In my limited lifetime, I’ve seen a lot of technological advances and yet there is less and less financial stability with the average US citizen.

The class divide is real and become more apparent as money increasingly buys corruption and immoral laws that treat citizens as necessary commodity cogs in the profit making wheels.

The USA is slowly boiling frogs all across the land and the frogs are not noticing their lives are being diminished everyday.

Soon, most will lack any kind of ethical will and those ambitious enough for change will sell their soul to gain financial stability.

Not a great society to belong to.

Posted by Butch_from_PA | Report as abusive

This blogger doesn’t tell you he/she is being taxed at 40+ percent of his income and his country has a 25% sales tax and no purchasing power. Yeah, like I want the government to take 4 out 10 dollars I make then stick me with a sales tax of 25%. No thank you.

Posted by AmericanVet3 | Report as abusive

This is very simple:
1) Let employees unionize like Denmark where they can negotiate their salary OR
2) Set a decent minimum wage like France where the government figures it out.

FastFood/Service/Retail is where a majority of our entry level jobs are today in the US. They should have some mechanism to get better wages – either the free market unions or a socialist set wage level. But for rich Americans to attack both and just say these people don’t deserve more – basically its economic slavery.

Posted by John2244 | Report as abusive

According to the Big Mac Index in 2012 the cost of a big mac in Denmark was $5.37 probably more now — will people in the US pay that?

Posted by JArbuckle | Report as abusive

““During my Senate campaign, I ate a No. 11 at McDonald’s many, many times a week and I know the price on that one, $7.19. … According to the data on the analysis of what would happen if we raised the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years, the price increase on that item would be about four cents, so instead of being $7.19 it would be $7.23. Are you telling me that’s unsustainable?”

- Elizabeth Warren”


I’m guessing Elizabeth must have failed math, because I have no idea how anybody with half a brain would come to the conclusion that raising pay 50%, would translate to a 4 cent price increase. However she IS a politician, so that probably explains the inability to comprehend reality.

btw… Stores in other countries are often owned outright by MD. Whereas most stores in the US are franchised. So that’s a whole other middleman obviously expecting to make some decent money. But of course… I know people who always think it’s about the little people, assume that business owners and corporations should make zero profits, and just do everything for the fun of it.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

I’m guessing dd606 failed math and economics. The labor cost has little to do with pricing, it is the competitor’s price that drives it. Business finds a way to get more production or automation to cut costs (ATMs vs tellers, financials/accounting did not hire back 2 million jobs cut in the great recession). WA has the highest state min. wage, the McD dollar menu items cost a dollar there as they do in MS. MA has a current $8/hr min. wage going up to $10.50 A McD franchise at the high end costs 1.8 million, low end 1.1 million. Avg return is 10%.

Warren based her number only on labor cost for corporate owned(about half the stores)in her state, which does not account for franchisee fees which run 16.5% (12.5% commission, 4% advertising).

Posted by JamesChirico | Report as abusive

Wow Reuters…seriously…stunned….

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

There are too many differences between the US and Denmark to make a direct comparison. However, the basics boil down to a few facts. In Denmark there are very few people living in poverty or on the street. There are also relatively few ultra-rich (most of them are “old money” rich). In fact there is a cultural bias against the pursuit of extreme wealth – most Danes consider that to be a character defect. Danish culture and their version of socialism says that all residents should be paid a wage that will allow them to live comfortably. The State will provide very good medical care cradle to grave, education up to and including university level, vocational training, a stipend for rent assistance while attending school, and many other social benefits. For that, Danes pay a LOT of taxes, and are (for the most part) very satisfied with the cost/benefit ratio. Regarding the immigration issue, yes they struggle with the issue as does any nation that people want to immigrate to. I believe that many of their social programs are tiered, so that native Danes get better and more preferential treatment than do immigrants – but they are still treated with dignity. There is a reason that Denmark (and the other Nordic countries) consistently rank at the very top of all polls gauging residents’ “happiness”.

Posted by RayPetersen | Report as abusive


You might want to spend a couple minutes obtaining data, rather than tossing off numbers to buttress your “can’t compare us to them” dogma. The Economist has published the Big Mac Index for a number of years. A Big Mac costs just 15 percent more in Denmark ($5.37) than in the United States ($4.68).

You also might want to use your common sense. Comparing the sales you typically see when you’re in a MacDonald’s to the number of employees making the place go, how much of the cost of a Big Mac do you believe is labor cost?

Posted by OkieRedux | Report as abusive

If you worked at McDonald’s for 4 years and really, I mean really gave it all you have the management would see the effort and promote you quickly. No Excuses. In America the opportunity is always there … you choose what to make of it.

Posted by moxsee | Report as abusive

once again, all it comes down to is that the people at the top are too greedy. they are not satisfied with making the same amount as last year, they must make more than last year.

if during the next five years, the top 1% kept their profits/earnings at the same level, but instead used that money to benefit its employees, give back to the system, etc.. (this is not increasing their taxes, just a reduction in their greediness). the rest of us could see a large improvement in prices, salary, quality of life. these people already make millions a year. why do they need one million and one. stop being greedy, enjoy what you have, and be a little more generous.

Posted by BaiJiuUSA | Report as abusive

The market sets the wages, prices and how many are hired. The government should stay out of it. Raising the minimum wage will artificially increase prices and costs to the bottom line of the business. So ask what happens when cost cutting is needed to keep the business profitable. Here is the answer; “personnel cuts are made” so be careful what you ask for you may get it and loose your job. I will not pay more for McDonalds products and many others will follow my lead.

At higher wages employers may also change requirements and many may not meet new requirements and loose their jobs.

This whole thing is another Obama lie where he says he is helping business and he is not. If you are on fixed income you will get hurt since inflation will result.

Obama must be moving towards destroying the country by destroying the middle class because that is what’s happening. To Obama’s supporters, you people are just stupid and you will find out if a large increase is initiated. GOOD LUCK!

Posted by Bighammerman | Report as abusive

Shame on Reuters for posting this article. It is totally misleading and irresponsible. If you check the data you’ll see that the cost of living in Denmark is higher than the U.S. This means that a dollar in Denmark has less value than a dollar in the U.S. which is why they make more. I don’t blame the individuals who get worked up after reading this article. I do hold Reuters responsible for rousing an unfortunate group who doesn’t know any better.

Posted by DavidNY | Report as abusive

Well it’s pretty obvious now we’ll have to level sanctions against Denmark.

Posted by Laster | Report as abusive

Australia also pays livable wages. Yes Australia is expensive. The life expectancy is above the USA. There is universal health care but under attack from a new tea party wannabe right wing government. There are no slums although the circumstances of aboriginal communities are not to be proud of. We pay high taxes.

The US is about self serving people who have theirs and begrudge anyone else having any. Working harder at the bottom is not a solution when those hard workers have 3 full time jobs (if lucky) and still cannot live a decent life. Paying a bit more for a better society so people can have decent conditions? Not the American way, eh?

Posted by ArghONaught | Report as abusive

Denmark: 5.5 million people
USA: 318.9 million people

Denmark: 13.4% below “poverty” line
USA: 15.1% below “poverty” line

Denmark: 56% taxes of GDP
USA: 22% of GDP

First of all, Denmark and the USA are VERY different situations, it’s like comparing rent in California to New Mexico. The fact that there are more people in the US drives both prices and wages down, something that is being overlooked. Also, as far as actually taking care of it’s poor, which this whole argument is supposed to be about, Denmark is doing 1.7% better even though their tax burden is 250% of ours!

These numbers are from the CIA World Factbook.

Posted by Bastiattheman | Report as abusive

OK I did my math and here’s a look at the Big Mac Index and let’s see who’s really getting screwed:

It lists the USA price for a Big Mac, where the minimum wage is under $8/hr as $4.20. =31.5 minutes of work to buy one.

It lists the Australia price, where the minimum wage is about $17/hr as $4.90. =17.25 minutes

Now let’s look at Denmark, where the Index price is $5.37 and their minimum wage of $21 hour. =15.34 minutes, almost half the work time an American would need.

But not only do the Danish make over $20 an hour they are required by law to have a paid four week vacation from their first year, so you can cut that 15.34 minutes by 1/12th, bringing it down to 14 minutes to afford one. That’s not including the free universal healthcare or free college tuition the Danes get, which gets them out of their minimum wage jobs much more easily than Americans can.

So who’s getting screwed?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/co mmons/9/9b/Big_Mac_index_50USD_2columns. png

Posted by kenjacobsen | Report as abusive

I am not getting it! I mean that if you are not satisfied with conditions or wages then just leave. It’s just a supply-demand thing. If McD won’t have enough workers in the area they would be forced to raise wages…

Posted by n.k.rogozin | Report as abusive

Another thing is that currently there is a very thin margin between manual labor being cost-efficient and the cost of robotics being lower. A robot can probably flip burgers 24/7 with downtime of 5-10 hours a month. I mean petitioning for larger wages for unskilled labor is the surest way to get replaced by robots.
In most cases robots work much better for businesses. Just compare the results of Toyota and GM. As a bonus robots rarely call for unionization.

Posted by n.k.rogozin | Report as abusive

According to the 2012 census, the population of Denmark is approximately 5.5 million people. The population of the US is 314 million people. Do the math.

Posted by alwayslearning | Report as abusive

When I was a kid going to college I landed a job pumping gas at a local garage. At the time (1977) the minimum wage was something like $3.00/hour. I was working my way through school…..can you believe it! Quaint those old days.

The owner says “Look kid, I’m going to pay you $5.00 an hour but remember this….I’m going to leave you a list of things to do every night and I expect them to be done. Don’t you come up short in the cash drawer either. Be on time and never close early (I sometimes worked alone at night). I expect you to be neat and to be good with the customers.

I’m no labor lawyer but this guy was tough. Mess up and he’d fire you in a minute. Do a good job and he was a saint. He put his money where his mouth was and he backed it up. I’ll never forget him. I worked my tail off for him for a couple of years until he retired and I moved on. He was the most generous and the toughest boss I ever had.

Posted by Missinginaction | Report as abusive

Australia also pays livable wages. Yes Australia is expensive. The life expectancy is above the USA. There is universal health care but under attack from a new tea party wannabe right wing government. There are no slums although the circumstances of aboriginal communities are not to be proud of. We pay high taxes. OK OK

Posted by lokvin55 | Report as abusive

Those “Mexican illegals” in the US claim to only take jobs no Americans want.

This PROVES they are in the US to HIJACK AMERICA’S ECONOMY and send those funds to MEXICO.

Do MEXICANS care about the people from the 125 countries around the world that are POORER THAN MEXICANS?

Posted by FifthColumFirst | Report as abusive

Looking at the comments and the scope of this article, it appears that the populist notion is alive and well that one can just magically create wages and transfer wealth. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth…Raising wages lead to increased costs across the entire ecosystem leading to higher inflation and declining standards of living. The US has a higher average living standard in purchasing power parity than that of Denmark – a good site to visit to see the differences of costs between the US and Denmark is http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info  /compare/Denmark/United-States/Cost-of- living

Costs in Denmark are generally much higher for everything with specific comparisons on meals at McDonalds being 98 percent higher -

Posted by WonderfulWorld | Report as abusive

This column is completely off the mark – our countries have nothing in common – so your point is what? This column is garbage – Do a better job Reuters! – You might as well have some of the commentators here submit a story for your front page!

Posted by Goodtimesyall | Report as abusive

Denmark has a noble demographic and not the diversity of the USA, thus it can afford to pay more.

Posted by EdwardMax | Report as abusive

When I was a kid going to college I landed a job pumping gas at a local garage. At the time (1977) the minimum wage was something like $3.00/hour. I was working my way through school…..can you believe it! Quaint those old days.

The owner says “Look kid, I’m going to pay you $5.00 an hour but remember this….I’m going to leave you a list of things to do every night and I expect them to be done. Don’t you come up short in the cash drawer either. Be on time and never close early (I sometimes worked alone at night). I expect you to be neat and to be good with the customers.

I’m no labor lawyer but this guy was tough. Mess up and he’d fire you in a minute. Do a good job and he was a saint. He put his money where his mouth was and he backed it up. I’ll never forget him. I worked my tail off for him for a couple of years until he retired and I moved on. He was the most generous and the toughest boss I ever had.

Posted by Missinginaction | Report as abusive

Simple to prove how wages for McDonald’s are so high. Cost of Big Mac in Denmark? Approx. $1 more, price for happy meal approx. up to $13. VAT tax on that meal: 25%. Higher wages means higher cost to consumer. Never will change. Now, if McDonald’s suddenly charged these prices in the USA, the liberal media goon squad, unions, and the WH would scream “prejudice and injustice to the poor!” Holder would demand an investigation. Democrats would run on the McDonald’s platform. Gays, lesbians, unions, students, and the very Occupy kids that ate McDonald’s would boycott and threaten McDonald’s. And this, in a nation where a truly “impoverished” employee also gets up to $7 an hour in government subsidies.

Posted by filmdirector1 | Report as abusive

To Missinginaction… Actually I started working at that time too and it was $1.65/$1.85. How did you get it that off?? lol…

Posted by jimstark | Report as abusive

Apologies on the earlier post I was $1.30 off. The first job I ever had was getting paid $2.90 (min wage in 1979) working in at my stepfathers company in the shipping and receiving department. I was 14 years old. I unloaded trucks during the summer in Florida. I often drove a fork-lift. Moved trucks around the company lot and did a lot of stuff that would be considered menial labor. I was the stepson of the owner of a multi-million dollar company. My stepfather was (even then) a millionaire. He paid me $2.90 per hour. It was him being cheap. It was him teaching me what to expect in the real world. I worked there for 4 summers eventually working up to $5 an hour (the last summer I worked as a draftsman in the Engineering dept). Best first jobs ever. Will never forget my experiences there nor what it taught me. Your mileage may vary.

Posted by jimstark | Report as abusive

Lastly… she isn’t paid $21 per hour, she is paid 115 Kroners (Danish currency as they don’t use the Euro). The cost of a McDonalds combo meal there? 65 Kroners. They pay about twice as much as average Americans. See the issue?

Posted by jimstark | Report as abusive

The questions never asked about jobs, worker benefits, and middle class.
1. We might start with exactly what is the middle class, besides wages, there are benefits, education(s), experience and skill sets (AKA what can you do productively). Might also include real wealth, since credit is the emperors clothing of most who think of selves as “middle class”. We can for now ignore reality, AKA what you own, as “middle class” in reality “Owns” very little, as clothes/TV/trips etc you do not really “own” until paid off.
2.Fast food-related type work AKA little education or skills required, highly replaceable needs to be evaluated.Are these actually “real jobs” or simply the last bastion of the lower end, uneducated, low end hourly workers. We must remember that not that far back, fast foods, paper routes, such jobs were nearly 100% staffed by HS/College kids, they were NOT adult, family supporting jobs. Not that far back hard to find anyone over 21 in such occupations. These jobs were simply a stop along the way for education, car, clothes and such for kids. Now if they are career adult jobs, along with lots of “new USA economy, mfg, other “services”, semi skilled labor, semi-functionally literate, all with limited to no REAL upward mobility, we then can discuss wages for adults,seniors, etc. We decide on the wages after we decide what these jobs are really worth and how that was based.

3 Is a semi-literate HS drop out with zero chance of upward mobility/30 hour part-timer worth 8/10/15/20hour. Since these part timers min wages-10-15 cancel, make most items unfordable, rent/HC/Retirement/food/utility/auto-ins and education/home ownership and other like items. Now we ask, since wages, and in truth qualifications for job so low, and the corporations only concern is profit for WS, who must pay these bills? MCD/WM/ and all, even small business (but profits there never asked when owners whine, justifiably or not, we never know). How can nation survive when 1/3 do not finish HS or graduate illiterate in most skills? Dare we ask?

4 Dare we ask, WHO IS GOING TO PAY THESE BILLS for life supporting functions? Please no more of the right’s Ver. 1.0 of either dodging the issue, or attacking such workers (but never their corp owners) of “just pull selves up by bootstraps as others do. What is omitted form the discussion is reality today is made up of wealth via legislation (AKA buy/employee the elected for profits).
5 Other big’gy, never discussed. that as “investment” bleeds off more from the economy, less goes to workers, less to Competitive world class R&D, updated mfg-worker upgrades/education/high tech, exports to compete at world class levels. That costs money which takes form WS”investors”. We have a sorry history since 80′s of bleeding companies with NO updated HW or workers training. Regan told us in 80′s ship mfg offshore, everyone will work at home with a PC, “keyboarding” was a hit, until reality burst that bubble as last mfg plant left. But we still hear the manta of “USA Business doing great in China” not said, Chine by law must own (profits?) 50+ of each business along with all the technology for free for “USA Co. to move there. What a deal for China”USA Co” which now exports all but jobs back here, off course “WS” loves it as WS/Banks record profits provide.

So back to the ole question, what are semi-literate/HS drop outs worth in wages.

Finally we must ask what are HS and College grads with equal of Basket Weaving degrees worth in world class competition? Not a secret we rank behind a lot of 2nd Tier nations in education, literacy and hi tech grads. Employers complain HS and some college grads can neither read nor write, ordinary math skills miserably absent. Note 3 million hi tech jobs in USA are not being filled due to lack of qualified workers, along with a dash of greed to hire lower paid H1A’s.
Well what are the workers who never took time to get educated, a value to employers really worth. Dare we stare that beast in the eye, dare we ask that reality, will we ask that reality?

Posted by chuck2 | Report as abusive

Make your case but make it with some honesty. What is the cost of living in Denmark, what are the income tax rates, what is the cost of the food sold etc etc. Just stating you make $21 means nothing. It’s cheap sloganeerng.

Posted by stuff27 | Report as abusive

Hmmm, what they don’t tell you is that a Big Mac meal costs 16 USD in Denmark. Will anyone pay 16 for a big mac meal? I know I wont

Posted by AKMcNeil | Report as abusive

Really? There is no way you can compare the wages from a very small country with less than 6 million people with extremely high taxes with one that is almost 350 million people with low or modest taxes.

Trust me I’m from Texas and have lived in Denmark for almost ten years and $21 (approx 114dkk) an hour is not a lot of money. Everything is at least 23%-28% more expensive if not more.

I’m really disappointed in Reuters that they would even publish this article. I guess they need the clicks.

Posted by Sadie03 | Report as abusive

…one of the many reasons Denmark is one of the happiest places in the world and the US is one of the least.

Posted by anarcurt | Report as abusive

I keep hearing comments like no one is going to pay twice as much to eat at McDonald’s. I find that ironic because I am paying at least twice as much for most expenses in life compared to 10-15 years ago. The cost of energy, education, food, and housing costs depending where you live in the country have at least doubled in less than 15 years. Why should we expect the cost of fast food to remain frozen in time?

Let wages rise and if necessary prices can be raised accordingly and fast food will still survive. It costs about twice as much to eat at McDonald’s than it did 20 years ago, 4-7x the cost 30-40 years ago, and we probably pay 10x as much to eat at McDonald’s compared to 50 years ago. Despite all those price increases Americans still eat at McDonald’s.

Bottom line is inflation exists and the economy adapts, some players in the economy will adapt others won’t but some other business will easily fill the void. $15+ an hour in 2018-2020 and beyond is not that outlandish when one takes inflation into account.

Posted by JKM81 | Report as abusive

Most that are criticizing the wage comparison make an equally invalid comparison themselves in comparing cost of living.

If the bulk of those food cost differences are from VAT then that has NOTHING to do with McDonalds and everything to do with the government.

As far as some relevant studies, check out:

http://www.investindk.com/Why-Denmark/A- great-place-to-live

Posted by pyradius | Report as abusive

Two obvious problems.
1. Denmark has the 3rd highest cost of living in the world. Almost exactly twice that of the US.
2. Denmarks income taxes are also WAY higher than the US.

In other words the purchasing power of the US is far greater than Denmark making this article very misleading.

Posted by 24marinematt | Report as abusive

well that is half of the truth… as in Denmark they have to pay $21/hr because taxes are 40% so I just calculated after tax they bring home $2250 which is 12,000 Danish Kroner…. which is a basic survivable salary in Denmark… because everything is twice as expensive as it is in the U.S.
So articles like this don’t paint the entire picture….

And seriously after living in Denmark for 5 years …for sure it is NOT the happiest country in the world… I’ve never met more severely depressed people (almost every man I’ve met in there was on anti-depressants) than in Denmark… Almost everybody struggles with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) as the weather sucks… it’s cold and overcast 9-10 months out of the year…. people drink in there insanely… the norm for a friday/sat night outing for a Danish man is to have 15-25 beers… they get really “trashed”..as you can also legally drink on the streets…and there is no age limit as it is in the U.S. Why people drink so much? because the weather is cold and depressing most of the year…. Happy people normally don’t drink so excessively…

Posted by RLiam | Report as abusive

The author doesn’t sound as if she has any aspirations to obtain a higher level, more productive job. And why would she when she can earn high wages with minimal effort? (If she is in school and working towards something better, then I apologize-but I do not agree that a job at McDonalds merits high wages and benefits).
Working to advance yourself is just that-work, and often hard work. I always assumed a job at McDonalds was a stepping stone along that road, a way to learn self-discipline and work ethics, while earning some extra cash-not a living-wage job.

Posted by beejaycat | Report as abusive

So, one in four McDonald’s employees are in their 20 ‘ s and supporting kids? The corollary is that three in four are not. A quarter is not an alarmingly high number.

And for that quarter, I’ll guarantee you getting knocked up single at that age is indicative of the behavior that landed you working at McDonald’s in the first place!

Posted by shawnmer | Report as abusive

“I work for McDonald’s and I make $21 an hour.” Dude forgot to mention that they charge $14 bucks for a burger. That’ll last lone in the US.

Posted by ctmom | Report as abusive

In America, no one wants to spend $10 for a quarter pounder with cheese. Maybe in Denmark, people are used to getting robbed when they buy a hamburger. I imagine you HAVE to get paid well just to eat at that rate. It sounds like a rather vicious circle you have created for yourselves over there. Fact is, work at a fast food joint is an entry level job. No responsible person would even consider having a family until they had earned some work experience and could make more money to support themselves.

Posted by StephenThomas | Report as abusive

“I’m guessing dd606 failed math and economics. The labor cost has little to do with pricing, it is the competitor’s price that drives it.”


Actually, I never failed anything… Went to a good college, and own my own business. Which, guess what… Sells things to the public. What are your credentials? Labor cost has little to do with pricing? You must be high. Payroll is the largest expense you have in most retail. Increasing your employees pay 50-100%, is huge… Enough to put most places out of business. The public dictates what something is worth, and once they do… they will not pay more. And what the US public thinks a crappy hamburger is worth, is just a few bucks. So then you adjust your expenses to be able to do that. But I guess you plan to change the entire retail model and the public’s perception of value, for a whole continent? Ha! Good luck with that. You’re living in a dream world.

If the public wants things to be better… Stop buying the cheapest stuff possible, and get ready to pay way more taxes. Anybody living in the US going to do that? Didn’t think so. So quit comparing us to places like Denmark.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

Did this article fail to mention that a hamburger in Denmark cost $9.50? lol

Posted by suemarie000 | Report as abusive

I can imagine someone like this article’s author writing from the U.S. in 2006, an article titled:

“I’m a cashier at Home Depot and I just bought a house that cost $500,000. Why don’t you?”

Perhaps Danes are enjoying an “income bubble” like the housing bubble that we’ve lived through in the U.S. Is the Danish economy reaching a bubbling, boiling point based on their oil-production-based economy? As long as Denmark has oil and oil remains expensive perhaps this economy will not go bust. I think maybe the Danish economy is a one-legged stool.

Here in Arizona I don’t see too many Danish-built cars on the road. Food from Denmark on the shelves of my grocery store? Not so much… Danish airplanes flying through my blue skies? Nope, not those either…

For the sake of Louise Rantzau and her high paying job at McDonald’s, she better hope the Danish oil boom doesn’t go bust.

Posted by RickPowellAZ | Report as abusive

Right, take your family of 4 to Micky D’s over there and spend 75 bucks for dinner. hahaha. What a joke.

Posted by CF137 | Report as abusive

Their hamburger is $5.37 so it is not that much higher than the U.S.

Posted by Kelly11 | Report as abusive

Sure, but a Danish worker is heavily taxed and the prices in McD Denmark are significantly higher. When that is said, no one should make a career at a fastfood joint, it’s a workplace for young adults and students.

Posted by Tummas | Report as abusive

Why? Because this isn’t Denmark, that’s why.

Posted by LowneWolfe | Report as abusive

@CF let me ask you. Would you work for terrible conditions, unstable work schedule and 8$ per hour? Thought not.

In Australia, MacDonald’s Employees are paid about 15$ -16$ / hour. Their big macs cost only about 50 cents more.

And look at it this way, if Micky D’s did charge 75$ per meal, perhaps this would motivate you to cook nutritious meals at home for you and your family so your kids can grow up healthy, instead of obese with issues like diabetes and the like.

Posted by Sister_Sage | Report as abusive

First of all, a combo meal is listed as 65 danish krone, which would be $11.93 USD which would be $47.72 for a family of 4. Perhaps learn how to math before commenting.

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/cou ntry_result.jsp?country=Denmark

Removing the 25% VAT in Denmark, you end up with $35.79 which translates to $8.94 per meal.

Looking at the same site for Florida, the cost of a combo meal at McDonalds is $6.95 USD.

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/cit y_result.jsp?country=United+States&city= Miami%2C+FL

Posted by pyradius | Report as abusive

My wife works for a company that had to raise their minimum wage do to the law. It cost the company nearly 200,000 dollars to raise the minimum wage for all of the employees. That in turn a raise all the prices in the store which impacted the customers. My wife has her MBA.

From an economical perspective forcing a minimum wage hike only drives the cost of living up. Where do people think the funds come from? It comes out of our pockets.

IMHO if you want to make as much as a college graduate. You should go to college.

Posted by LavaRoush | Report as abusive

I live in a suburb of Washington, DC (United States).

I am highly educated, having an undergraduate degree as well as a Master’s Degree. Currently in my steady salaried job I make $30/hour.

So if employees who are not nearly as educated as me, many whom have dropped out of high school, can make $15/hour does that mean I automatically get a pay increase to $45/hour? Or $60/hour? Do my years of education and hard work count for nothing?

From the day I turned 16 years old I started working 5 days a week after school and on weekends to make money- first I worked at Roy Rogers (a fast food chain) and then at KMart, so I have experience with this topic.

To think that someone is deserving of a “living wage” simply because they are alive is pretty demeaning to them.

There is an 18 year old black boy here in America who was just accepted to ALL EIGHT of our Ivy League schools. He does not come from a posh background but instead had family who fought tooth and nail to ensure his education. I sincerely hope that boy goes on to change the world- I know for a fact he is smarter than I am.

My point being here that McJobs are meant for teenagers and young 20-somethings, not people with families. Get your educations, learn a trade (electricans and plumbers actually make more than I do!), etc. Don’t settle. American is becoming the Land of People Who Settle.

That my friends, is pathetic.

Posted by kara1414 | Report as abusive

Denmark: $12 USD for a combo (vs $6.40in the USA), 45% average salary taxes (vs 30% in the USA), 51% higher consumer prices than in the USA…yeap, it is obvious AS TO WHY YOU MAKE MORE MONEY…..NOW GO BACK TO DANISH SCHOOL, LEARN MATH AND THE DEFINITION OF COST OF LIVING.

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/com pare_countries_result.jsp?country1=Unite d+States&country2=Denmark

http://answers.google.com/answers/thread view?id=332116

Posted by FredBar | Report as abusive

“Removing the 25% VAT in Denmark, you end up with $35.79 which translates to $8.94 per meal.”

Perhaps learn how to math before commenting.
$11.93/1.25 = $9.54 per meal.

(VAT rates are ‘tax-exclusive,’ dude. http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing- book/improve/retail/exclusive-inclusive. cfm)

Posted by clubchampion | Report as abusive

For that kid of dough$ I can sit down and be served elsewhere. These kind of wages are more than skilled construction workers make. People hired to work at Micky Ds require no skills to start. This is definitely inflationary.

Posted by stoneon | Report as abusive

and that is why Danish are the Canadians of Europe :)

Posted by peter. | Report as abusive

Just for curiosity sake, I used an international cost of living comparison tool between Miami and Copenhagen. Everything is significantly more expensive with the average being 35% higher. That $21/hour would be a pricey $16.50/hour here, but a little more in line.

Posted by bluewater23000 | Report as abusive

So a Big Mac in Copenhangen costs, what, 1/3 to 1/2 of one minimum wage hour’s pay? That’s on par, or cheaper relative to the cost of a burger vs. minimum hourly wage in the US.

Also, a lot of people come down on McDonald’s employees, but they’re run like a hot, sweaty, greasy, high-output factory. Watch the kitchen next you’re getting lunch. Not the most intellectually stimulating career, but the employees toil through one hellish shift after another for laughably small wages (we all joke and point to McDonald’s jobs any time employment issues come up). I suspect a lot of posters know this and think of a McDonald’s job as their absolute no-jobs-in-my-field-since-the-layoffs-an d-now-I’m-three-months-past-due-on-rent last resort because we’ve had better jobs and know MickeyD’s doesn’t pay commensurate with the amount of work involved.

Posted by Parpyduck | Report as abusive

Sounds like the union in Denmark has helped this person a lot. Instead of pressuring having the government raise the national minimum wage, why don’t the fast food workers unionize?

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive

Anyone who claims that labor cost does not drive cost must have spent most of their life living in academia. As a retired former business owner i can tell you labor cost is a major factor in the price you set. Before you are allowed to buy yourself a cup of coffee you legally must make sure that the employees are paid. The cost of paying these employees is the one single largest cost in operating a business. This is a domino effect since the cost of materials is set based on the suppliers labor cost. After 35 years in the same business i can easily say my two highest cost were labor and government regulations. You can sit up in your ivory towers of academia and look at charts and read all the data you want. But until you get out into the real world and operate a real business then you cannot comprehend what it takes to operate a business.

Posted by Ncrdbl1 | Report as abusive

The biggest problem with your story of how much you make is the fact that Denmark is a relatively small country and the amount of employees that McDonalds has to employee is small. So they can shift their global assets around to compensate the Union wage you make.

If all of the McDonalds on across the world had to pay the equivalent wage There would be less stores, more expensive food, less employees and so on.

Posted by scotch1337 | Report as abusive

Let’s do a bit of economics 101. The cost of a Big Mac is set by what the customer will pay. It is as high as it is, because the customer is willing to pay this exorbitant price. Even without wage increases to its employees, the cost keeps going up, because average customer wages keep going up and people can afford to pay (be gouged) more. The price of a Big Mac combo will increase to $16 when the customer is willing to pay that price, even if wages stay exactly the same. And, believe me, the cost of a Big Mac combo WILL increase to that price, sooner than later.

The difference between cost of production (of which wages are a very small percentage) and the cost of goods is called profit. Profit has been going up continuously, even through the recession. Even without a wage increase the cost of a Big Mac will continue to increase, because the disposable income of the customers keeps going up. The profit margin will continue to increase.

There is no link between the cost of a Big Mac and the minimum wage. There is only a link between profit margin and the minimum wage. The cost of a Big Mac is determined by the increase in the disposable income of the general public.

Stated more clearly, every time YOUR wage (middle class wages) goes up, the cost of a Big Mac will go up, even if the fast-food worker is paid exactly the same (or even less).

Posted by Justin_Thyme | Report as abusive

“And unlike in Denmark, where most fast-food workers are young people looking to make extra money while in school, the vast majority of U.S. fast-food workers are adults trying to support their families.”

Precisely, most fast-food workers in Denmark are NOT adults trying to support their families. Denmark doing well is not an effect of its high minimum wage. This article doesn’t even mention the costs of living in Denmark…

Posted by bv671 | Report as abusive

she forgot to say one thing: Africans are excluded from labor market, from exploitation, so, they are massively homeless in Denmark. homelessness and criminality are results of racist politics. so, Denmark is not so nice country as she described. Africans and Asians collect bottles to survive, during that time Danes drink like crazy and enjoy in their life. this 4 days is distortion festival in copenhagen, Danes drink like crazy and immigrants collect bottles like crazy, result: stores closed machines for exchanging of bottles. but surely, collecting bottles will bring them happiness for several days, then they will have to wait for next festival. Danes don’t need to wait, they can enjoy because they got job on the basis of nationality and color of skin.

Posted by vebsajt | Report as abusive

[…] Full Story: Reuters […]

[…] Written by McDonald's worker Louise Marie Rantzau. Originally published on Reuters. […]

Why are so many of you willing to subsidize these companies that pay low wages? That money comes from your and my paycheck. I don’t give a hoot if the cost of a BigMac doubles. The percentage of my income that goes to service sector goods is a pittance relative to the part of my taxes that go to public assistance for people with jobs.

Posted by diluded0000 | Report as abusive

Come on. Tell the fine people here the cost of a Danish Big Mac and the average income in Denmark. Apples and oranges.

Posted by AZWarrior | Report as abusive

[…] to unionization, workers in Denmark also get paid sick leave and overtime […]

[…] I work for McDonald’s and I make $21 an hour. No, that isn’t a typo. It’s really my salary. You see, I work for McDonald’s in Denmark, where an agreement between our union and the company guarantees that workers older than 18 are paid at least $21 an hour. Employees younger than 18 make at least $15 — meaning teenagers working at McDonald’s in Denmark make more than two times what many adults in America earn working at the Golden Arches. [Read The Full Article] […]

Why guess about prices, look them up!!! The average cost of a Big Mac in the US is $4.80 and the average cost of a Big Mac in Denmark is $5.37. A difference of 57 cents or roughly 12%. I think we could all deal with a 12% increase in prices if we could all get a $7.75 cent an hour raise. It is also true that tax payers are making up the difference for big companies. Kinda of messed up when million and billion dollar companies are on welfare.

Posted by bcsofnc | Report as abusive

[…] to unionization, workers in Denmark also get paid sick leave and overtime […]

22867 211452Aw, this was a truly nice post. In concept I would like to put in writing like this moreover taking time and actual effort to make a extremely great article

[…] 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 McDonald’s there. She […]

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[…] In 1 Chart. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 December 2013. Marie Rantzau, Louise (May 15, 2014). I’m making $21 an hour at McDonald’s. Why aren’t you? Reuters. Retrieved 15 May […]

How many workers per store when one compares locations? My bet is technology has also replaced many of those jobs in higher labor costs countries. Yep I figure some jobs have been replaced.

Pretty soon the place could be 50 percent vending machines and just order pads. Could they go cashless? Of course with the few people left a higher wage is affordable. Entry level jobs though will be harder to find.

Posted by doug211 | Report as abusive

So that is why Denmark has one of the highest cost of living in the world…go figure.

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