Beer and pretzels.

Beer Economics

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Nov 8, 2012    •    1475 Views

In China, 1/2 liter of beer costs 9 minutes of work.

To calculate how many minutes of work it takes to buy beer in 150 countries, Swiss bank UBS researchers divided the median wage in that country by the price of 1/2 liter from a retailer. Their results? Beer drinking is most costly for workers in India (55 min.), Philippines (48 min.), Colombia (47 min.) and Nigeria (29 min.). At the other end of the list is the US (5 min.), Czech Republic (7 min.), Germany (8 min.), the Netherlands (9 min), and China (9 min.)

The UBS report reminded me that national beer consumption relates to affluence. According to the American Association of Wine Economists (yes, really) the connection between beer and per capita income is an upside down “U.” As individual incomes increase up to $22,000, so too does beer consumption. Then though, when wine and spirits become affordable, people move from beer to pricier liquor. Currently, nations with emerging markets represent two-thirds of the world’s beer consumption. (The ascent of China’s beer drinking curve in the graph below is striking.)

So, when anyone mentions beer, we can think about of purchasing power, economic growth and demand from the developing world.

A Final Fact: Beer has also been in the news as a source of government revenue. President Hollande just said France’s beer tax will rise by 160% to fund programs for young people and the elderly. Meanwhile, 2 years ago, after Russia spiked its beer tax by 200%, beer purchases declined.

Sources and Resources: This BBC article on the impact of the impending French beer tax was a good read as was the Economist’s details on the UBS beer cost study. More academic, the AAWE paper was the source of my beer drinking information about developing nations. Please note that all information from UBS and The Economist  is current while data and the graph from the AAWE is from 2010 and before.

World Beer Consumption, 1961-2007

China Leads The World in Beer Consumption









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