The US, UK and Australian minimum wage systems

Updated time

Last updated

26 April 2021

Comparison of 100 years of the US, UK and Australian minimum wage systems

A working paper entitled One Hundred Years of Dynamic Minimum Wage Regulation: Lessons from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, by the Honourable Reg Hamilton, and Matt Nichol, examines 100 years of operation of the Australian, the United Kingdom and the United States minimum wage systems, and provides a comparison.

Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, established minimum wage systems in response to sweated labour in the late 1890s and early 1900s. These systems had common origins in the Victorian Shops and Factories Act 1896 (Vic) in the then British colony of Victoria. 

All three jurisdictions passed similar laws to allow trade or wages boards to set industry or sectoral wages.[1]  This article examines how the minimum wage systems in all three countries evolved in response to social, political, economic and legal factors and provides a comparison of the historical minimum wage rates in graph 1 in the appendix. 

The ACTU and AiGroup have provided a commentary on the history from the point of view of trade unions, and industry:

Further commentaries are available below:

 

[1] Keith Hancock, Australian Wage Policy, Infancy and Adolescence (2013) 5; E.H. Phelps Brown, The Growth of British Industrial Relations: A Study from the Standpoint of 1906-14 (1959) 206-207; United States Minimum Wage Study Commission, Report of the US Minimum Wage Study Commission, volume 1 (1981) 2; David Neumark and William L. Wascher, Minimum Wages (2008) 12.