Minimum wages in the EU Countries

Employment and Social Affairs

Nearly three quarters of the EU Member States have some form of statutory national minimum wage but there are many differences among European countries.This is one of the result highlighted in the Statutory minimum wages in the EU 2016 report released by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound). Out of the 28 EU Member States, only six do not have a legal minimum wage: Cyprus, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden. In the majority of the EU Member States, where there is no statutory minimum wage, the minimum wage level is set in collective agreements. As widely known minimum wages are exclusively regulated at national level. Even though the idea of a common European threshold has gained momentum in recent years, at this stage the regulation of minimum wages still varies considerably across the EU Member States.

These differences are linked to disparities in quality of life and productivity between the countries of the European Union. The level of statutory minimum wages greatly varies between EU countries. Eastern European Member States such as Bulgaria and Romania have the lowest minimum wages (around 250 euro per month); Malta, Slovenia, Portugal, Greece and Spain, are on average levels with minimum wages between 600 and 1.000 euro per month. Countries in Western Europe have the highest minimum wages, with the top monthly level minimum wage in Luxembourg (around 1.900 euro per month). At the same time it could be highlighted that  the new Member States have generally experienced a more sensible growth of minimum compared to the majority of other EU countries: between January 2015 and January 2016, the highest increases of the minimum wage (by more than 10%) took place in Bulgaria, Estonia and Lithuania, while on the other hand, Belgium, Germany, have not had any change in the rates of minimum wage.

The minimum wage has been a hot topic in the EU over the past years, especially when Germany introduced a minimum wage  and the debate on the issue reached the European Parliament and the European Commission.
EU Commission’s President Jean Claude Juncker has stated in many occasions that he would work towards introducing a minimum social wage in each Member State.  However at the moment it is a goal far to be reached as it is not possible for the EU to intervene on salaries legislation: even article 153 (paragraph 5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prevents the EU from adopting a single legislation on pay.


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