In the past twelve months there have been demonstrations and protests in Indonesia (see: Indonesian labour strikes reflect frustration , protests recently in Cambodia over minimum wage levels for garment industry workers, and even in affluent Singapore, minimum wage legislation is about to be passed (see: Not the Singapore National Minimum Wage) for the cleaning industry.

In Thailand, a new national minimum wage was put into effect which was uniform across the nation (see: Stimulus package to offset Thailand minimum daily wage rise) despite sharp differences in the cost of living between metropolitan areas such as Bangkok and the more rural, provincial areas.

However, in a number of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), minimum wage levels are often set taking into account different costs of living across the country. This is the case in Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia which do so on a regional basis and the Philippines fine tunes it into agricultural and non-agricultural categories as well. The graph does not capture every province’s wage since the list would otherwise be very long but does try to include at least one rural area and one urban for comparison for each country which has more than one minimum wage level.

The graph above only shows the countries which have nationally legislated a minimum wage. Countries like Cambodia which have a minimum wage for only one sector eg the garment and shoe making sector, are not included. On this count, Singapore is also excluded as it has only one sector so far slated for a basic wage requirement, the cleaning sector. Brunei has no minimum wage legislation nor does Myanmar yet.

The wage is sometimes set on a monthly basis but sometimes on a daily instead. In many Western developed nations, an hourly rate is often used since marginal labour is presumed to not always want to work on a full time basis. This measure also ensures that part time workers are covered while retaining more flexibility for both employer and employee.

For comparison purposes, the minimum wage in Asean countries shown above was calculated on a monthly basis and where it was given in daily figures, then it was assumed that the worker would work on average twenty days a month. The figures were all converted to USD as at January 10, 2014 for comparison purposes. –SHARON SNODGRASS,

Read more: How much do workers get as a minimum wage in Asean countries?