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When American tech company boss Dan Price announced to staff recently he would slash his million dollar pay-packet to raise the minimum wage at his firm to US$70,000 he, unsurprisingly, received claps and whoops of joy.

Price based his decision on a piece of research which found that emotional well-being rises with income, but only to a point - about US$75,000 a year.

But could it really be that easy to make workers happy?

Yes and no says Massey University professor Christoph Schumacher.


"I have no doubt there is a level of income that makes us happy."

The problem is that if we look around and see others with more we don't feel satisfied, he says.

Schumacher said a series of studies undertaken around the world showed around US$10,000 per capita of GDP was enough to satisfy people's basic needs.

"Once our basic needs of shelter, food and comfort are covered then we are seemingly happy. Much more money doesn't necessarily make us happier."

Schumacher said New Zealand ranked very highly when it came to international comparisons of happiness.

"Kiwis are quite happy."

Whilst he was not aware of any research pointing to an exact salary in New Zealand Schumacher said the median annual household income was $68,000.

"That seems to be a good enough number which is not too far out from the US figure."


But, he said, being happy was also relative.

"It seems when we have more than others that makes us happy."

Chief executive salaries have come under fire in recent years as they have crept ever higher leaving the average workers' pay looking meager in comparison.

The chief executives of Standard & Poor 500 companies made 354 times the average wages of US workers in 2012.

Schumacher said Price's altruistic move made for a good news story but he doubted many other bosses would follow suit.

"I think most companies squeeze their money for employees. We are working more today than we did 10 years ago."

However he believed bosses underestimated the productivity gains which could be made out of better pay and treatment of staff.

"I strongly believe happy people work better."