What is the minimum wage at Walmart

Walmart's annual report looks like an ideal world. In colorful photos, smiling employees advise smiling children on buying bicycles. Well-haired saleswomen hand out apples one by one, clear shelves in a good mood and pack goods in plastic bags as if there was nothing nicer. "Building the best team in all of retail is at the core of our strategy," writes Walmart CEO Doug McMillon in the report.

Walmart is America's largest private employer. Worldwide 2.2 million people work for the department store group, in the United States there are 1.3 million - almost as many as Munich has inhabitants. According to a 2012 ranking by the British television broadcaster BBC, there are only two major employers in the world: the American military and China's People's Liberation Army. You can buy everything at Walmart: from groceries and clothing to - depending on the state - firearms, televisions and furniture. The Waltons, who still own more than half the company, are by far the richest family in America, the magazine Forbes estimates her fortune at $ 152 billion, divided among six people.

States pay millions of dollars

But the reality for the workers at Walmart is different than in the annual report: Employees across the country take to the streets, go on strike, demand more wages and rights - and that's dangerous. Anyone who becomes rebellious must expect harassment. A judge recently ruled that Walmart had threatened employees who tried to form a union. No other company has more employees who rely on food stamps and the Medicaid health care program for poor people in addition to their wages. The company's low-wage policies cost the American states millions each year. For the traditional Thanksgiving holiday, a leftist politician was handing out turkey sandwiches to Walmart employees who had to sell turkey all day but couldn't afford them. Walmart has become the epitome of starvation wages.

Now Walmart has promised to get better, and by April 500,000 employees will get a raise. The company is introducing a new, higher minimum wage in the USA, and no one will earn less than nine dollars an hour in the future. Walmart wouldn't have to do that; the US government's minimum wage is only $ 7.25. President Barack Obama would have liked to increase it long ago, but cannot prevail against the Republicans in Congress.

Walmart's decision has significant implications beyond the income of its 1.3 million employees. Experts expect other companies to follow suit, because otherwise their employees could quit and switch to Walmart - political pressure on Walmart competitors is also increasing, after all, nobody wants to become the epitome of starvation wages. "Walmart has basically increased the American legal minimum wage," said Maryam Morse of the management consultancy Hay Group Guardian. Walmart competitor Target has announced that it is considering wage policy. Other companies like Gap, Starbucks and TJ Maxx have already raised minimum wages. That's a good sign for the American economy, which is consumption-driven - especially as poorer people tend to spend larger parts of their salaries instead of saving.

The raise costs Walmart a billion dollars a year, but it still makes good economic sense. "It's a strategic investment in our people so that they feel more like the business belongs to them," says CEO McMillon. "We strongly believe that our customers will have better experiences in our stores, which will drive sales and, over time, results for our shareholders." The 48-year-old made $ 25.6 million last year. A Walmart employee with the new minimum wage would have to work more than 2.8 million hours to reach their annual income.

The crisis is over and employees are quitting more often again

Employee associations and employee-friendly politicians are particularly pleased that Walmart expects economic benefits from the move - and not just a PR success. This increases the likelihood that other employers will follow suit and invalidates the old argument that a higher minimum wage harms companies and the economy because companies would hire fewer people and then unemployment would rise.

The opposite is the case, writes the economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman in the New York Times: "If you pay workers better, they stay longer in the company, morale is better and they are more productive." Walmart is one of the quickest employers to lose their employees. Learning new people all the time is expensive. Since the economy has recovered, according to a study by the Federal Reserve in St. Louis, people are more and more willing to swap their jobs for a better one.

Americans are quitting as often today as they were before the economic crisis. This is also due to falling unemployment. Five years ago the unemployment rate was 9.8 percent; it has now fallen to 5.7 percent. McDonald's wrote in the just published annual report that this could make it more difficult to keep wages low - and warned of falling margins. At McDonald's and other fast food companies, too, employees are protesting and striking, demanding a minimum wage of $ 15.

Most people have barely benefited from the economic recovery in recent years. Average wages in America have only risen by two percent annually during that time, just a little more than inflation. The Walmart company, on the other hand, developed splendidly. In 2007, just before the recession, the company posted $ 183,500 in sales per employee and $ 5,938 in profit, and by 2014 the numbers had increased by 18 and 22 percent respectively.