International Food Professionals Lag in Wages

Food Processing’s annual survey draws a global response from food and beverage professionals from throughout the world.

By Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor

More highly educated and lower paid sums up the profile of non-U.S. respondents to Food Processing’s 9th Annual Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey, which was conducted online in May and June 2015.

While four out of five U.S. food professionals who answered the survey have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, 93.7 percent of those outside the U.S. have a college education. The proportion of MBA holders is somewhat smaller, but twice as many hold Master’s degrees, a total of 39 percent. Despite advanced education, average wages were $51,975, about half the U.S. pay rate.

Food Processing’s annual survey draws a global response from food and beverage professionals from throughout the world. Of the seven continents, Antarctica is the only one where industry workers didn’t weigh in for the 2015 study. Survey findings published in the magazine’s July edition are based exclusively on feedback from U.S.-based individuals. More than 100 questionnaires are completed each year by food workers in other countries, as well. The largest sample comes from Canada, followed by Mexico, and many other nations are represented, including India, France, Kenya, even Iran.

Sample size shrinks, the farther the workers are from the U.S. border, and the number of Canadian and Mexican respondents this year was smaller than in 2014. Last year’s Canadian sample actually had average wages that were higher than U.S. workers, but not this year: the average wage for Canadian respondents was $71,592, about $30,000 less than the U.S. sample. However, their formal education level was considerably higher: fewer than 5 percent did not have a college degree, and PhDs constituted 8.7 percent of the base.

The majority of survey participants in Mexico reported annual incomes below $35,000. Of those who specified a dollar amount, the total was significantly lower, making estimates of actual pay rates difficult. Like the Canadians, they are a well educated cadre, with less than 10 percent without a college education. The ratio among U.S. respondents was 20 percent.

Average pay increases for Canadians was a modest 2.3 percent, below the U.S. average of 3 percent. Mexican food workers faired better, with an average raise of 5.3 percent. They also feel more secure about their job prospects, with only 18 percent indicating they are more concerned about job security than they were a year ago. By contrast, 26 percent of U.S. workers are more concerned, and 44 percent of Canadians are plagued by uncertainty.

Wages outside of North America varied widely. The average salary was $46,211. When Europeans and Australians are isolated, their average pay is $136,682. Overall, food professionals in Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe and South America reported average wage increases of 13.9 percent. Some individuals claimed substantial pay increases, though the changes require context: a quality-assurance professional in Sri Lanka reported a doubling of pay, bringing him to $9,400 for the year.

In terms of job satisfaction, non-U.S. workers are marginally less satisfied than their U.S. counterparts. On a five-point scale, with 5 being very satisfied and 1 being very dissatisfied, the U.S. average was 3.56. Canadians were close behind at 3.5, while both Mexicans and non-North Americans averaged 3.4.

Profit sharing and pensions were the most frequently cited benefits Canadian and other foreign workers would like to receive. A company car was a common mention for professionals in Mexico and other nations.

If the survey samples are representative of global staffing, an aging workforce is more of a U.S. than international phenomenon. While the average age of U.S. survey participants was 49 years, 7 months, the international contingent averaged 37 years, 9 months of age. Almost two thirds (63.1%) of the global food workers are under the age of 40, compared to one in five (21.6%) for U.S. workers.

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