Study reveals workers face €1000 wage penalty outside of Western Europe

Friday 22 September 2017

Workers in eleven central and eastern EU countries are being paid up to €944 less per month than workers in Germany according to a study published by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).

Workers are paid up to €1058 less than workers in Germany when factors including age, education and the sectors and occupations of the workforce are also taken into account. Workers in Romania are the worst paid, followed by workers from Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia and Croatia.

The study also found large pay differences between central/eastern Europe and western Europe in the manufacturing, construction, public and finance sectors, and in professional, scientific and technical jobs. Smaller differences were found in the (low-paid) food, accommodation and retail sectors, and in administrative and support jobs. Workers in north west Europe are better paid because there is a fairer and more transparent system for setting wages, involving trade unions and negotiations with employers.

Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa, stated “the best way to ensure proper wages is strong sectoral collective bargaining, which must be a joint effort between trade unions and companies, with input from governments and the European Commission. We appeal to companies to be good social partners and corporate citizens, and willingly engage with social dialogue. If not, we will take strong action against them.”

Central and Eastern European workers also face an uphill battle to improve their living standards due the strict refusal of companies, such as Amazon, Auchan and Lidl, to engage in collective bargaining. Worryingly, there have also been severe cases of harassment and intimidation towards trade unionists.

Unfair and unequal wages and living standards across the EU, coupled with a lack of fundamental working rights, is why, more than ever, we need to stand up for our fellow European trade unionists and demand that the East-West wage gap is eradicated.

Table 1 Differences in net monthly earnings (in Euro and adjusted for PPP) compared to Germany

Member State Difference in average net monthly wages, in €uro Difference in average net monthly wages, adjusted for economic structure and workforce composition, in €uro
Lithuania -313.667 -469.008
Slovenia -377.421 -633.892
Czech Republic -428.186 -555.328
Estonia -466.807 -686.936
Slovakia -574.439 -708.387
Poland -639.041 -669.196
Croatia -658.516 -810.263
Latvia -819.858 -954.322
Bulgaria -826.576 -955.166
Hungary -840.906 -947.698
Romania -944.462 -1058.26

Source: ETUI

The study ‘What drives wage gaps in Europe?’ by Jan Drahokoupil and Agnieszka Piasna was published by the European Trade Union Institute. The figures quoted in this press release are to be found in Figure 2 on page 13 of the study.