Sort of depends on what you are trying to do: are you trying to compare purchasing power, or are you trying to compare salaries?
First of all, what NOT to do is to simply convert salaries using some currency exchange. The currency exchange reflects what the banks, governments, and huge currency traders feel is the relative value of a currency. This is what you would get if you wanted to convert USD 100 into British sterling, for instance. The conversion rate changes every day, and it has nothing to do with the purchasing power of a currency or with salaries in a country.
If you want to compare purchasing power between countries, you should use a Purchasing Power rate of exchange (this is based on buying the same market basket of goods in each country, it used to be called the “Big Mac” standard based on buying the notorious sandwich in each country, but it’s got way more sophisticated.) I don’t have a link, there are a few sources that compute such. The Economist Intelligence Unit publishes Purchasing Power rates, as do a few other sources, I think the OECD, frinstance.
If you’re looking for comparison of purchasing power, than those are the conversion rates to use.
There are other sources – for instance, Union Bank of Switzerland publishes a pamphlet that shows various prices for similar commodities in different cities around the world.
If you want to compare salaries, for instance to know what a certain position is paid in different countries(like, 5 year experienced secretary, chief accountant, geologist, CFO, senior programmer, whatever), the only way to do that is to look at survey market data in each country. (You would need to have clearly defined positions – a Head of Sales for a huge multinational firm will pay more than the same position at a small local firm. Salaries also differ by industry, by geographic area, and by service/experience. In some countries, by gender as well.)
As far as I am aware, such information is not available for free (alternately: you get what you pay for). I would be very dubious about any free information, but it depends on what you need it for and what level of accuracy you care aobut. It is extremely costly to do such a survey well and accurately, and firms that have such data sell it. If you are interested in learning more about what’s available, email me (be sure the subject line is clear.)
You may be able to find some sites in each country where you could glean some individual information.
Hope that helps. Your question is kind of broad, and this is a detailed, complicated subject involving statistics and the like.
[Edited by C K Dexter Haven on 03-15-2001 at 08:34 AM]