The Economist decided it would be interesting to know how a political leader’s pay compares to what a typical citizen from that country earns. Here are some of the numbers with salary first and then the multiple of per capita GDP next. I’ve approximated because the numbers are from a bar graph:
Kenya: $486,000 (proposed), 240x
Singapore: $2,183,516, 42x
Indonesia: $124,171, 28x
U.S. $400,000, 8x
Israel $120,814, 4x
China: $10,633, 2x
You might want to look at this per capita GDP list to see worldwide poverty and affluence firsthand. Qatar is #1 ($145,300) while Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo are last at #’s 228 and 229 ($300). The dollars are 2010 estimates.
As a second step, you might check income distribution. In a list of 136 countries, Sweden is ranked as having the most income equality. Sweden ($39,000) is #23 on the per capita GDP list.
The Economic Lesson
GDP indicates the total value of goods and services produced in one nation during one year. Per capita GDP is GDP divided by population. Because these GDP figures are averages, it is helpful also to look at data that relates to inequality.
The Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said, “It doesn’t matter what color a cat is as long as it catches mice.” Explained in the Teaching Company’s “Why Economies Rise or Fall,” Deng cared about results more than economic ideology as he propelled the Chinese economy toward capitalism.
Through Deng’s leadership, China allowed farmers to keep and sell excess crops, productivity swiftly rose, and agricultural markets evolved. Then, as infrastructure emerged to connect these markets with factories, and education and technology developed, “Made in China” became a household term in the U.S. Throw in currency control, low wages, and you get a country whose economy is now #2 in the world.
Ranked by GDP, the U.S is #1 (close to $15 trillion), China is #2 (close to $5 trillion), and Japan is #3 (close to $5 trillion but less than China). Completing a list of the top 10, then we have Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, Brazil, Canada, and Russia.
If China continues to grow at a 10% rate while the U.S. growth rate remains close to 3%, then China will be #1 in 2 to 3 decades. However, the Chinese per capita GDP and average standard of living will still be far behind most of the world’s largest economies.
The Economic Lesson
It can be tough to compare economies. Even if GDP comparisons use the same components (consumer spending, business investment, government spending, and exports minus imports), still we have to remember that purchasing power differs. Also, we can use per capita (per person) comparisons and other indiviudal standard of living yardsticks.