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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Dec. 25) – French Polynesia's minimum monthly wage will increase to 140,000 French Pacific francs (US$1,728/1,173 euros) on Jan. 1, the third straight yearly increase.

Since 2003, the monthly minimum wage will have gone up 33 percent.

During that same five-year-period French Polynesia's inflation rate has steadily increased yearly - 0.7 percent in 2003, 0.8 percent in 2004, 2.3 percent in 2005 and 2.4 percent in 2006.

So far this year, the consumer price index has increased from 105.2 in January to 106.7 in October after peaking at 107.2 in July.

On Jan. 1 the monthly minimum wage, known in French as the SMIIG (salaire minimum interprofessional garanti), will increase 3,000 French Pacific francs (US$370/€25) from the present 137,000 French Pacific francs (US$1,691/€1,148).

On Feb. 1 this year, the minimum wage increased 6,000 francs (US$74/€50) monthly from 131,000 (US$1,617/€1,098) to 137,000 francs.

Five years ago in 2003, the monthly minimum wage was 105,985 French Pacific francs (US$1,308/€888).

The new monthly minimum wage of 140,000 French Pacific francs on Jan. 1 works out to an hourly rate of 828 francs (US$10/€6.94). That is based on a minimum of 169 hours worked each month, or eight hours daily and 40 hours per week of Monday through Friday.

By comparison, in the U.S., the federal hourly minimum wage increased to $5.85 in 2007 and is due to increase to $6.55 in mid-2008 and to $7.25 in mid-2009. However, several states have departed from the federal minimum wage. The State of Washington's minimum wage will increase to $8.07 hourly on Jan. 1. California and Massachusetts have minimum wages of $8 hourly.

However, when comparing Tahiti's minimum wage with that in the U.S., the current USD exchange rate is 81 French Pacific francs, which is low. Were that rate to increase to 90 francs, Tahiti's hourly minimum wage of 828 French Pacific francs would be the equivalent of US$9, or $1 lower than it is at the moment. And the monthly minimum wage of 140,000 French Pacific francs on Jan. 1 would be $1,555 or $173 lower than it is at the moment.

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