Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
What does Google think minimum wage is? (shkspr.mobi)
66 points by edent 49 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 33 comments

When my partner was pregnant, I found some of the snippets downright dangerous.

One time in particular, my partner was worried about abdominal seperation (something quite common during pregnancy), she was searching about how long it takes to heal.

The snippet answer said that it usually doesn't heal without surgery. She was really upset by this, until I pointed out that Google had sourced that answer from a private plastic surgery clinic. Our country's public health website said it usually heals within 8 weeks.

I don't think anyone was being malicious here, but using machine learning to source answers from website, and present them as fact, is surely a disaster waiting to happen? Especially when it comes to medical advice.

There's also times when the information is contextual, searching "can you drink during pregnancy" shows me the advice from the CDC, but that guidance is different in my country.

At the very least, Google turn off snippets for medical questions, or should only show answers extracted from government health bodies in the country the user is in.

On a recent Technology Connection video he said something interesting.

1. You should not take everything you read on the Internet at face value.

2. Google takes what it finds at face value.

So Google uses a data source that uses euros per month as a metric (probably [0]), so what?

There's clearly room for improvement here, but come on - taking taxes into account? Showing only the current wage? Those are oddly specific requirements. Who should the taxes be calculated for? A single man? A family of four? A single parent?

Showing the historic wage as it compares to other countries is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. What Google does here is very far from being dangerously misleading.

[0]: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php...

Since the minimum wage in the UK is a thing that is set by law, defined as an amount in Sterling per hour, before tax (although at that pay level tax would be irrelevant anyway), that's the only valid response.

> So Google uses a data source that uses euros per month as a metric (probably [0]), so what?

What is the intent of a user making a search for "minimum wage uk"? If they searched for "historic minimum wage", or "compare minimum wage" - sure, that graph is appropriate.

What I'm saying is that for someone searching for the UK's rate, there is only one correct answer. This is the rate mandated by the Government for your age.

The author didn't describe this as "dangerously misleading"—that was when Google took the list of "what not to do during a seizure", and provided them as instructions on what to do instead. The minimum wage graph was described as "it's merely annoying."

In fairness, it appears they're only mentioning taxes in the context of comparing to other countries' minimum wage - if Google wasn't displaying the other countries minimum wages, there'd be no reason to factor in taxes for a fair comparison.

The seizure example is a nice example of where this feature is misleading. But overall, I have come to not trust it at all. I find it is flat out wrong more often than not. A feature like that is pretty much useless.

If you're interested in a querying for quantitative data, try Wolfram|Alpha:


That's wrong as well.

It says £8.72 for people aged over 25.

The correct rate is £8.91.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates

I often link to my own website as a source for my answers in other communities. Sometimes I use Google to find the pages. The Google snippets from my website are frequently wrong (as an answer to the question), or lack the context required to qualify as a correct answer.

Bad answers are common in my field, but they are rarely signed with my name. It feels like being quoted by a really dumb journalist.

> Minimum wage is always expressed per hour - not per month.

That's a weirdly american thing to say. In many countries, people typically measure their wages per month and have no idea how much do they earn per hour or per year.

In the UK its per hour and is different for different age cohorts (25+ > 21-24 > 18-20 > 16-17 > 0-16), and the author from the UK.

Maybe its a bit of a parochial American thing to assume that everyone is an American being overly parochial.

It's not a weirdly American thing; as the article says, the standard is to express minimum wage as an hourly figure [1].

People don't necessarily refer to their own wage as an hourly figure, but that's an entirely separate thing to how minimum wage is normally discussed. I'd suggest, as well, that people who don't think of their wage in hourly terms are less likely to be on or close to minimum wage.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage

I don't think there is a standard. Even your link mentions that Russian and China use the monthly amount.

I think the fact that those two countries are called out as an example suggests that monthly is not the norm; difference exists, but common discussion/comparisons tend to use hourly (as shown in the top table), and the majority (?) of countries do as well.

At the very, very least, it's not a uniquely American thing.

Actually, in the UK the minimum wage seems to be defined on a per-hour basis too: https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates

In CH it depends on the type of work. If you're contracting/freelancing etc. You know or talk about your per hour or maybe per month salary. But with long-term employment you typically know or talk about the per year and maybe per month salary.

Then there are a _lot_ of trades that have a GAV (negotiated by unions), where you'll have a wage table per month and clauses such as being entitled to a 13th salary per year among other things. The tables typically take education (including advanced training) levels, roles and experience into account.

> In many countries, people typically measure their wages per month

In the UK, when you are paid monthly, that's referred to as "salary". Wages are paid weekly. Furthermore the "minimum wage" is set by the government, who express it as pounds-per-week. If you're on the minimum wage, and you are paid monthly, the minimum wage is still expressed in terms of weekly pay.

[Edit] I'm wrong - the government website apparently expresses it in hourly terms (thanks, @a_humean). But it's never expressed as monthly pay, nor in Euros.

In fact, if you ask google "minimum wage in the US" it give the answer in dollars per hour.

Perhaps it's user error when the author asks google a question that isn't actually relevant to them.

It's not 'user error' for a user to ask an unanticipated question; that's poor design.

I didn't say "unanticipated" I said not relevant to them. The "problem" here is that Google returned the result in the form most relevant given the question, not the user.

If you ask what the price of break is in the UK you shouldn't expect the answer to be in US dollars either. Maybe someone hadn't really thought about currency when they asked but that doesn't make the answer wrong at all.

Google absolutely hasn't returned the answer in the most relevant form. Minimum wage in the UK is defined as an hourly figure, and the UK doesn't use the Euro. That's the key point of the article.

Terence Eden is British.


But, yes, I am. And in the UK the minimum wage is set at a per-hour basis.

Agreed most my Eastern European family talk about after tax amount/month.

That's the real number. A useful number for actually thinking about how to allocate your resources.

Arguably per hour is a better metric because it accounts for part time workers.

A few months ago I searched for the tax filing deadline (I am in the UK). It gave the deadline for the US, which was later in the same month. This is pretty risky.

Haha the comments are so funny :) Everybody is right in this cacophony. Pandora’s box is open, and I bet a pint we’ll never find the true answer …

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact