European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions
Together for decent work and fair pay from farm to fork

Minimum wages in 10 EU countries far below the low wage threshold!

08/11/2017

Minimum wages are so far below the official low-wage threshold in many EU countries that many workers would struggle to make a living, shows an ETUC briefing paper published today.

Minimum wages would have to increase by 62% in Spain, 28% in Germany and 22% in the UK just to reach a level below the low-wage threshold (set by the OECD at two-thirds of the national median wage).

In 10 EU countries, the minimum wage is at or below 50% of the national median wage - clearly making it difficult for those on the minimum wage to make a living from the money they earn. Some EU countries have such low wages that minimum wages are closer to 2/3 of national median wage without necessarily being enough to live on, e.g. in Romania and Bulgaria.

In the agriculture and hotel and restaurant sectors, the situation is particularly worrisome. Minimum wage does not allow for decent living and movements such as fight for 15 in the US and Fight for 10 in the UK, have shone a light on the urgency for a minimum wage to actually become a living wage.

Harald Wiedenhofer, EFFAT Secretary General said: 'Minimum wages are creating working poor and poor retirees only. We need living wages instead of minimum wages. This would not only stimulate consumption and drive economic growth but also reduce in-work poverty. The current review of the posting of workers directive, which provides for the same remuneration for posted workers, can be a step forward in this respect as these workers are often paid minimum wages only. Minimum and living wages should be first of all set in the framework of collective bargaining agreements. Strengthening the social dialogue and collective bargaining is therefore one of themost important current challenges also with regard to minimum wages. However, as more and more employers are quitting the bargaining table in Europe, we also need urgently higher statutory minimum wages."

The ETUC and EFFAT will be pressing for minimum wages to be increased as part of an action plan to implement the European  Pillar of Social Rights.

More info

  • The briefing paper with data from 19 EU countries with national statutory minimum wage can be found below
  • 22 out of 28 Member States have a nationwide statutory minimum wage, but Bulgaria, Croatia and Malta do not appear in the OECD database used for this press release and briefing paper. 
  • Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden have sectoral minimum wages determined by collective agreement; and Cyprus has statutory minimum wages for certain occupational groups.

  

Country

Minimum wage as % of national full-time median wage

% minimum wage would have to increase to reach 60% of national full-time median wage

Amount in Euros minimum wage would have to increase to reach 60% of national full-time median wage

Belgium 

50

20%

1.86

UK

49

22%

1.97

Greece

48

25%

0.84

Slovakia

48

25%

0.63

Germany

47

28%

2.45

Netherlands 

45

33%

3.17

Ireland

45

33%

3.08

Estonia

41

46%

1.29

Czech Republic

40

51%

1.25

Spain

37

62%

2,67

 

EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. As a European Trade Union Federation representing 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries, EFFAT defends the interests of more than 22 million workers towards the European Institutions, European employers’ associations and transnational companies. EFFAT is a member of the ETUC and the European regional organisation of the IUF.