Article: What if you were paid in time, and not money?

Compensation & Benefits

What if you were paid in time, and not money?

How much is your time valued? How much better-off are you compared to your colleagues worldwide? Lets try to find an answer.
What if you were paid in time, and not money?

If there is one thing that unites the 2.8 billion plus global workforce, it is the most fundamental notion of survival. You work so that you are able to look after yourself and avail products and services which are essential for you to survive, which come at a price. Go back to the times before currency or modern economics streamlined the process of this exchange of wealth, and imagine a life where your biggest resource is time, and not money. What would it be like, if you were supposed to work a certain amount of time to procure food? Do you fully realise how much your time is worth? Furthermore, is the worth of your time subject to disparities in the world?

The UBS Prices and Earnings 2015 report answers just that. It poses the question ‘Do I earn enough for the life that I want’, and compares the purchasing power among 71 cities across the globe, including New Delhi and Mumbai. The 16th edition of the survey, which is conducted every three years since 1971, “highlights the effects of political and economic events on prices and earnings.” A standardised survey on the prices of 122 goods and services and earnings of 15 professions worldwide was conducted with over 68,000 respondents. A section of the report calculates the working time required by individuals in different cities in order to buy different products. Here are a few of the findings:

Working time required to buy 1 Big Mac:

  • New Delhi – 50 minutes
  • Mumbai – 40 minutes
  • London – 12 minutes
  • New York – 11 minutes
  • Hong Kong – 9 minutes (lowest)
  • Nairobi – 173 minutes (highest)

Working time required to buy 1 kg of bread:

  • New Delhi – 23 minutes
  • Mumbai – 27 minutes
  • London – 6 minutes
  • New York – 12 minutes
  • Geneva, Manama, Nicosia and Zurich – 5 minutes (lowest)
  • Manila – 83 minutes (highest)

Working time required to buy 1 kg of rice:

  • New Delhi – 73 minutes (highest)
  • Mumbai – 49 minutes
  • London – 16 minutes
  • New York – 16 minutes
  • Geneva and Oslo – 4 minutes (lowest)

Working time required to buy 1 iPhone 6 (16 GB):

  • New Delhi – 360.3 hours (roughly 15 days)
  • Mumbai – 349.4 hours (roughly 14.5 days)
  • London – 41.2 hours (roughly 1.7 days)
  • New York – 24.0 hours (1 day)
  • Zurich – 20.6 hours (lowest)
  • Kiev – 627.2 hours (roughly 28 days; highest)

The figures were calculated by averaging the prices of each product from all survey participants, dividing the price by the net hourly wage for the 15 professions and finally converting to either minutes or hours. In addition to the above figures, the report comprehensively compared the wage levels, price levels, domestic purchasing power, and expenditure of different goods and services on various yardsticks. Furthermore, it also compared the gross and net hourly pay across the cities and Zurich and Kiev were at the top and bottom of the lists respectively. Lastly, it also put in context the number of working hours per year and paid holidays people are entitled to in different cities. While professionals in New Delhi worked 2,214 hours with 27 paid leaves in one year, the numbers for Mumbai were 2,277 and 21 respectively. While Paris had the least working hours in one year (1604), Hong Kong had the highest (2606). In Manama, you may avail 34 paid leaves in a year, but in Shanghai the number is 7.

Hence, your skills and talent, and their economic significance are subject to various political, social and economic factors, and vary significantly across the world. The same set of products and services are (almost predictably) affordable or dearer, depending on where you live, i.e., dependent on the price of the product and your wages. As illustrated in the report, “Oslo, in the lower half of the table for buying bread, jumps to the top for rice. Workers there can afford it in one-eighteenth of the time that their counterparts in New Delhi require.” These disparities nearly mirror the divide between the developed and the developing world, in terms of resource allocation and wages. Therefore, global economic disturbances, exchange rates, and macro economics, and most importantly, where you work, influence your wages, purchasing power and dispensable income more than you realise, as is evident from the findings of the report. 

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Topics: Compensation & Benefits, Watercooler

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