“Denmark is a small country” with a far higher cost of living, Mr. Caldeira said. “Unions dominate, and the employment system revolves around that fact.”
But as Denmark illustrates, companies have managed to adapt in countries that demand a living wage, and economists like Mr. Schmitt see it as a possible model.
Denmark has no minimum-wage law. But Mr. Elofsson’s $20 an hour is the lowest the fast-food industry can pay under an agreement between Denmark’s 3F union, the nation’s largest, and the Danish employers group Horesta, which includes Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks and other restaurant and hotel companies.