Rent costs over 40% of minimum wage in 11 countries

Minimum wage workers in 11 EU member states spend at least 40% of their income on rent, new research shows ahead of a European Parliament vote on the issue.

People working full time are left with less than half of their wages to pay for food, heating and transport after rent in five countries. In a further six, rent accounts for between 41% and 48% of pay.

The findings highlight how statutory minimum wages across the EU are inadequate and leave workers unable to afford basic living costs. In 20 member states, the statutory minimum wage is set below the EU’s at risk of poverty threshold (60% of the national median wage) as well as below 50% of the average wage.

Member state Monthly average rent for properties with at most two bedrooms Monthly statutory minimum wage in Euro Average rent as a % of monthly statutory minimum wage
Bulgaria 152 286 53
Croatia 207 497 42
Czechia 145 504 29
Estonia 260 540 48
France 487 1,521 32
Germany 458 1,516 30
Greece 269 586 46
Hungary 211 424 50
Ireland* 784 1,613 49
Latvia 139 430 32
Lithuania 139 555 25
Luxembourg 1064 2,089 51
Malta 153 761 20
Netherlands 588 1,615 36
Poland 222 506 44
Portugal 301 600 50
Romania 174 429 41
Slovakia 147 520 28
Slovenia 240 886 27
Spain 489 900 54

The European Commission has put forward a draft directive on minimum wages. But as it stands, it would still allow statutory minimum wages to be set below the poverty line.

The adequacy of statutory minimum wages needs to take into account the real costs of living and stronger measures to support collective bargaining are needed, these will be among the amendments backed by the ETUC to be considered by the European Parliament’s Employment Committee on the 11th November.

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said:

“When rent costs half your pay, it leaves you with very difficult choices to make about other basic living costs: do you turn the heating off over winter, skip meals or buy poor quality food, or send your kids to school in damaged shoes or clothes?

“These impossible choices are faced by millions of people working full-time across Europe today – the carers, cleaners, cashiers and other essential workers who got us through the pandemic. It’s unacceptable and defeats the whole point of a minimum wage.

“We call on MEPs to ensure that minimum wages never leave workers living in poverty and to support collective bargaining as the best way to achieve genuinely fair wages.”


Average rent has been calculated by the European Trade Union Institute using 2019 data from the EU survey on income and living conditions

Wage data for 2019 from the WSI Minimum Wage Database

*Both figures 2018 in the case of Ireland