The Santa Index 2013: Santa’s Duties Worth Almost $138,000

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Some of those surveyed said Santa doesn't deserve any pay at all and should donate his time. Bah humbug.

This post comes from Barbara Marquand at partner site

If Santa Claus were paid a salary, he’d be getting a little Christmas present this year — a small raise.

St. Nick’s annual pay would rise 2 percent over last year to $137,795, according to our annual Santa Index, which is based on an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data for Santa’s many jobs. (See the full chart of jobs and wages at the bottom.) Last year his estimated salary was $134,944. In 2011, we estimated his pay at $132,950.

Considering all that he does — running the workshop, supervising countless elves, double-checking lists — an extra few thousand bucks is akin to a lump of coal.

Still, it’s more than a lot of people think Santa should get.

Asked how large Santa’s paycheck should be, 37 percent of respondents in a new survey said he should not be paid at all — that his work should be charitable. Bah humbug!

Others in the survey were more generous when asked how much Santa should be paid:

  • 27 percent said $1.8 billion a year, which is approximately $1 for every child under the age of 15 in the world.
  • 15 percent said between $100,000 and $200,000 a year.
  • 12 percent said under $100,000 a year.
  • 10 percent said more than $200,000 a year.

Why we do this

Knowing how much it would cost to replace someone’s income or the unpaid work he or she does for the family is an important step to figure out how much life insurance coverage to buy. (’s life insurance calculator can help with the estimate.) Santa doesn’t need life insurance because he will live forever, but nonetheless we make our annual attempt to estimate his salary.

Our Santa Index calculates Santa’s annual paycheck using average hourly wages and our own estimate of how much time he spends on each job.

You think you multi-task? Here’s just a sample:

  • Manufacturing executive. As an industrial engineer, Santa keeps the toy factory operational 364 days of the year. Annual pay for eight hours a day: $114,937.
  • Negotiator. Santa spends approximately 30 minutes a day as a labor relations specialist, resolving disputes among the elves, dealing with job complaints and coordinating grievance procedures. Annual pay for 30 minutes a day: $4,931.
  • Investigator. Determining whether you’re naughty or nice takes good detective work. Santa squeezes his private investigative duties into one hour a day, 30 days a year. Annual pay: $733.
  • Reindeer tender. Making sure the reindeer have enough food, water and shelter is only part of it. There’s also refereeing the reindeer games, putting a halt to the mean name-calling and making sure that a certain red-nosed member of the herd is ready for the big night. Annual pay as a ranch worker for one hour every day: $4,219.
  • List checker. As a bookkeeper and auditing clerk, Santa not only checks the list — he checks it twice. Annual pay for an hour a day 30 days a year: $529.
  • Sleigh driver. With all his years of service, Santa has trillions of safe rooftop takeoffs and landings under his belt and has logged more miles than any pilot in the world. Pay for one night as a flight engineer: $619.

Replacing Santa

Fortunately, Santa never calls in sick. But if he did, who should take his place?

Tim Allen.

That’s according to the largest share of respondents in’s survey. Among actors who have played Santa, Allen, star of the 1994 film “The Santa Clause,” came out on top, with 27 percent of respondents saying he should get the job if Santa had to stay in bed.

The second choice was Bill Gates. Here’s how the voting played out:

Because they have played Santa before:

  • 27 percent, Tim Allen (“The Santa Clause”).
  • 15 percent, John Goodman (“The Year Without a Santa Claus”).
  • 13 percent, Tom Hanks (“Polar Express”).
  • 3 percent, Billy Bob Thornton (“Bad Santa”).
  • 2 percent, Bryan Cranston (“‘Twas the Night”).

Because they’ve got plenty of money to spend on presents:

  • 14 percent, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
  • 7 percent, Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett.

Because he wouldn’t forget to feed the reindeer:

  • 6 percent, animal expert Jack Hanna.

Because they’d keep the elves in line:

  • 5 percent, businessman Donald Trump.
  • 3 percent, Fox TV host Bill O’Reilly.
  • 2 percent, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Because they make magic:

  • 4 percent, David Copperfield.
  • 1 percent, David Blaine.

It’s a good thing for these candidates that none actually has to step into Santa’s boots. Along with the job would come a not-so-merry pay cut.

The Santa Index 2013

Santa’s job

BLS occupation title

Hours/ day

Days/ year

Mean hourly wage

Annual earnings

Manufacturing executive (Santa’s workshop)

Industrial Engineers





Professional shopper

Sales and Related Workers, All Other






Packers and Packagers, Hand





Labor negotiator (with elves)

Labor Relations Specialists





Letter reader

Correspondence Clerks





Company representative in mall

Customer Service Representatives





Investigator (knows if you’ve been good or bad)

Private Detectives and Investigators





List checker (checking it twice)

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks





Taking care of reindeer

Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch, and Aquacultural Animals





Snow plow driver

Highway Maintenance Workers






Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers





Chimney sweep

Building Cleaning Workers, All Other





Cookie taster

Agricultural Inspectors






Shipping, Receiving, and Traffic Clerks





Announcer (“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”)

Public Address System and Other Announcers




Total: $137,795
Wage source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Stacy Johnson

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