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Hours worked vs salaries. I want to go to Iceland.

Hey wait a minute. The sun never comes out in the winter! Plus it's cold AND windy? Scrap that, I'm moving to Luxembourg.


Hours Worked vs. Salaries in OECD Countries

November 18, 2023

By Truman Du , Visual Capitalist



Comparing Weekly Work Hours and Salaries in OECD Countries

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is generally regarded as a collection of highly developed, high income countries. However with 38 member states from across the globe, economic prosperity can still vary widely between these nations.


To illustrate this, Truman Du from Genuine Impact charts the average weekly work hours and salaries across the OECD in 2022.

For wages, the OECD divided a country’s total wage bill by the average number of employees, accounting for inflation by using USD constant prices with a 2016 base year. Importantly, they also adjust using purchasing power parity (PPP) for private consumption of the same year.


Ranked: OECD Countries By Working Hours & Average Pay

Here’s a list of 35 OECD countries ranked by their weekly wage in 2022.

Iceland has the highest weekly wage at $1,528 in the OECD block much higher than all four of its Nordic neighbors. This results in Icelandic workers, on average, earning nearly $55/hour.

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Note: 2022 data for OECD members Colombia, Costa Rica, and Türkiye is missing from the source and has not been included.

Luxembourg, ranked second place, is the only other country with an average weekly wage that comes in above $1,500.


The U.S. ($1,490), Switzerland ($1,404), and Belgium ($1,247) round out the top five countries with the highest weekly pay in the OECD.

On the other hand, Mexican workers make around $321 a week, the lowest in this dataset.


Hourly Wages & Cost of Living

Despite the wage data using PPP-adjusted metrics, it still doesn’t fully account for discrepancies in local prices, which are influenced by complex factors like tariffs and fuel costs for imported goods, the impact of monopolies and cartels, the price of non-traded goods (energy, housing costs) and government taxes.

And while the difference in salaries seem massive, paying workers enough to meet their costs of living also plays a factor. Countries with higher weekly wages also correlate with a much higher cost of living and vice versa.

Switzerland, Denmark, and Iceland for example are in the top 10 countries with the highest cost of living compared to Mexico, which is far more affordable.

So, while it seems that an average Icelandic worker makes almost 7x what an average Mexican worker makes, the reality of how much of that wage is spent in supporting an average lifestyle in both countries is less direct.

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