Peruvians waiting to pay their internet and telephone bills. Photo by Tony Dunnell.

The current minimum wage in Peru is S/ 850 (nuevos soles) per month. At time of writing, that’s $261 (US dollars).

To get a rough idea of what that number means for the average Peruvian worker — and how it reflects both the cost of living and traveling in Peru — we can compare it to other nations in the region and globally. But we also need to keep in mind Peru’s informal sector, which is a huge part of the country’s economy.

nuevos soles per month

US dollars per month

Recent History of the Minimum Wage in Peru

Peru is a developing country with plenty of natural resources and a strong economy. The minimum wage (sueldo mínimo or salario mínimo) in Peru continues to rise, albeit not enough according to some (and too much according to others, who argue it fuels Peru’s massive informal sector; more on that below).

Since the year 2000 (the last year of Alberto Fujimori’s controversial reign as President of Peru), the minimum wage has more than doubled, rising from S/ 410 to the current S/ 850.

The minimum wage increased twice during the administration of former President Ollanta Humala, from S/ 675 up to S/ 750 in June 2012, and from S/ 750 to S/ 850 in May 2016. At the time of the last minimum wage increase, Peru’s Confederation of Workers was demanding S/ 1,500.

Minimum Wage in Peru Compared to Other Nations

As of June 2017, Peru occupies seventh place (alongside Bolivia) in the minimum wage rankings of South America. The rankings for the top nine countries are as follows (monthly minimum wage in dollars, followed by local currency):

Country Dollars Local Currency
Argentina $491 8,060 Argentine pesos
Ecuador $427 $427
Chile $399 264,000 Chilean pesos
Uruguay $353 10,000 Uruguayan pesos
Paraguay $353 1,964,507 guaraníes
Brazil $282 937 reais
Bolivia $261 1,805 bolivianos
Peru $261 850 nuevos soles
Colombia $244 737,717 Colombian pesos

Further afield, the Federal minimum wage in the United States currently stands at $7.25 an hour, which works out at about $1,200 per month — significantly more than in any South American nation.

In the United Kingdom, the current minimum wage is £7.50 ($9.59) an hour for workers age 25 and over. That’s about $1,550 per month.

Reality Check: The Minimum Wage and Peru’s Massive Informal Economy

According to a 2016 study by Peru’s National Institute of Statistics and Information (INEI), the informal sector has represented 19% of Peru’s total economy in the last decade. The report also states that informal employment in Peru is at a massive 73.2%.

These figures are backed up by a separate study by BBVA Research, whose findings were published in January 2017. The report revealed informal employment to be about 71% — meaning that more than 7.5 million Peruvians are working informally.

This obviously means that the minimum wage can be circumvented by many informal employers. At ground level, that’s easy to see. In any Peruvian city, you don’t have to look hard to find waiters, bar staff, hotel receptionists, maids and more being paid cash-in-hand at less than the national minimum wage (sometimes significantly less).

The amount of Peruvians who actually benefit from a rise in the minimum wage is therefore debatable — and potentially minimal.