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Image: chad050.

Just how much is your income worth?

A new tool developed by the ILO (International Labour Organization, an agency of the UN) shows how much your salary is worth in proportional dollars (computed in terms of purchasing power), and what percentage of the average national wage you make, for each of 72 countries.

Access the tool at the BBC website and consider whether relocating with your current income (assuming it’s portable) is practical for you.

How it works

But dollars are not the same everywhere. You’ll have to do a little work if you want to compare countries.

For example, I live in Chile. The average salary here is calculated as 375,000 CLP, which in US dollars is $773.25 per month. If I were to earn that, I’d be earning 100% of the Chilean wage, and 69% of the world wage. But the page calculates my income as $1026 PPP, where the unit of measurement is not the actual dollar, but rather the PPP, (Purchasing Power Parity dollar). One PPP dollar is equal to $1 spent in the US.

Image: screenshot.

It’s interesting to see how much further my same dollars go in Chile than in the United States (though this, of course, is not the only consideration for where you should live, and I am most certainly not trying to convince you to move to Chile). But then I wondered, what if I moved to Tajikistan? What would the same average wage (375,000 CLP) be worth there?

It turns out the average wage earned in Chile, when earned in Tajikistani somoni, is worth 3,675.54 TJS (as calculated via Which, when entered into the BBC calculator, though it is the same US dollar amount, bumps my PPP from $1026 to $2,722 and moves my wage from average to almost 12x the Tajikistani average.

On the other hand, if I look to the highest earning country on the list (Luxembourg), my 375,000 CLP is worth just 591.40 euros, where my purchasing power drops to $603 PPP, and my income drops to only 15% of my neighbors’.

The calculations are based on the average amount of money earned by people in the formal economy, and is weighted so that, for example, the vast number of employees in China affect the world average more so than the number of employees in a lesser-populated country, such as New Zealand. For more details about how the the tool was developed, see the explanation.

Making decisions

As a long-time expat, I am aware that other considerations loom large, including family, culture, language, comfort, health care, retirement, quality of life, air quality, education, communication, stability, and travel distances, among others. Those elements are relative and harder to quantify. This is just one tool to use to analyze the world’s hard economic realities…probably in your downtime while your boss is out of the office.

About The Author

Eileen Smith

Eileen Smith is the editor of Matador Abroad. She's an ex-Brooklynite who's made a life in Santiago, Chile. She's a fluent Spanish speaker who can be found biking, hiking, writing, photographing and/or seeking good coffee and nibbles at most hours of the day. She blogs here.

  • Jeff

    Very odd. I just found out that I am, basically, poor by Canadian standards!

    • Candice Walsh

      I’m poor by half the world’s standards, apparently! Guess I’m moving to 

  • EHA

    My international economics class in college was like pulling teeth. You just boiled down all of the most important points into a very accessible and understandable explanation. Love this!

  • Ashley Huff


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