Workers receiving poverty-level pay are among 35 million of the poorest Europeans who can’t afford a summer holiday, ETUC research has found amid the campaign to strengthen the EU’s wages directive.
While access to holidays has grown over the last decade, the majority of low income families remain excluded. Overall, 28% of EU citizens can’t afford a one week holiday away from home – but that rises to 59.5 for people whose income is below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold (60% of the median).
The worst situation is in Greece where 88.9% of people living at risk of poverty couldn’t afford a break, followed by Romania (86.8%), Croatia (84.7%), Cyprus (79.2%) and Slovakia (76.1%).
Italy has the highest number of people in this category with 7 million, followed by Spain (4.7m), Germany (4,3m), France (3.6m) and Poland (3.1m). See table 1 for all countries.
Many Europeans whose income is below 60% of the median are unemployed or retired, but this group also includes millions of low paid workers, particularly those earning the statutory minimum wage. Statutory minimum wages leave workers at risk of poverty in at least 16 EU member states and, according to the European Commission, 22 million workers make less than 60% of the median.
An analysis of Eurostat data by the ETUC and ETUI found holiday inequality has grown in 16 member states over the last decade between those with income below 60% of median and those with income above that threshold. For example, in Romania, 86.8% of people living at risk of poverty couldn’t afford a break compared to 46.7% of those with incomes above 60% of the median. This 40.1 percentage points (pp) gap has grown by 17.1 pp since 2010.
The biggest divides in access to holidays between the two groups are found in: Croatia (43.2pp), Greece (43pp), Bulgaria (42.4pp), Czechia (41.1pp), France (40.4pp) and Romania (40.1pp).
The biggest increases in the divide were seen in: Romania (+17pp), Slovakia (+14pp), Croatia (+13.8pp), Lithuania (+8.3pp) and Hungary (+7.9pp). See table 2 for details of all countries.
The ETUC is highlighting holiday inequality as part of its efforts to strengthen the EU’s draft directive on adequate minimum wages and collective bargaining, which will be considered by the European Parliament after summer.
The ETUC is working with MEPs to introduce a ‘threshold of decency’ into the legislation that would ensure statutory minimum wages could never be paid at less than 60% of the median wage and 50% of the average wage of any member state, delivering a pay rise to over 24 million people.
ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said:
“A holiday should not be a luxury for the few. While many workers are away enjoying time off with friends and family, millions are missing out because of low pay.
“The rise in holiday inequality shows how the benefits of economic growth in Europe over the last decade haven’t been shared fairly.
“The EU adequate minimum wages directive needs to be strengthened to ensure that wages are never so low that they leave workers living in poverty and collective bargaining is made a routine part of employment to ensure genuinely fair wages for all.”
This press release refers to the Eurostat EU SILC survey `being able to afford holidays away from home`, not entitlement to paid leave. The Working Time Directive says that workers must have at least four weeks paid annual leave. However some workers are also denied this right.
Table 1: People at risk of poverty (below 60% of median income) who cannot afford a holiday
|Member states||Percentage||Actual number|
Source: ETUC analysis of Eurostat data
Table 2: Holiday inequality in the EU
Group 1: People whose income is below 60% of the median (at-risk-of-poverty threshold)
Group 2: People whose income is above the above 60% of the median
|Member state||2010 gap between group 1 and group 2 (in pp)||Latest (2020 or 2019) gap between group 1 and group 2 (in pp)||Change in gap between 2010 and 2020/2019 (in pp)|
Source: ETUC analysis of Eurostat data