EU countries with weak collective bargaining have lowest wages

Euros

Wage levels in Europe are tied closely to whether workers are covered by collective bargaining, official figures show.

 In nine of the ten EU member states with the lowest average wages and minimum wages, just 7% to 30% of employees benefit from a wage level negotiated by trade unions.

On the other hand, more than 70% of employees benefit from collective bargaining in seven of the ten countries where wages are highest.

But the problem exists in every country – there are 19m workers not benefiting from collective bargaining in Germany and 76 million (39% of all employees) excluded across the whole of the EU.  

EU’s 10 lowest wage countries (lowest first)

Collective bargaining coverage

Change in coverage since 2000

Number of workers covered

Number of workers not covered

Bulgaria

23%

- 33%

718,405

2.4m

Romania

23%

- 77%

1.9m

6.4m

Lithuania

7%

- 8%

92,834

1.2m

Latvia

14%

- 4%

121,968

749,200

Hungary

21%

-17%

931,896

3.5m

Poland

17%

-8%

2.7m

13.3m

Slovakia

25%

-26%

637,150

1.9m

Czechia

30%

-5%

1.5m

3.6m

Croatia

45%

-19%

741,330

906,100

Estonia

19%

-4%

121,752

519,000

The ETUC is highlighting the data as the European Commission considers how to implement Ursula von der Leyen’s pledge to “ensure that every worker in our Union has a fair minimum wage.”

The Commission is due to present its initiative on October 28. The ETUC is calling for a directive which ensures member states cannot be set minimum wages below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold* as well as protecting and promoting collective bargaining in every member state. 

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said:

“The evidence is clear: wages are lowest where collective bargaining is weakest. Any credible European legislation to tackle low and unfair wages must include action to increase collective bargaining.

“There are now 76 million workers across the EU who are excluded from the benefits of a collective agreement, which means lower wages and higher inequality in every member state. 

“The Commission should require member states to promote collective bargaining, guarantee trade union access to workplaces and spend public money with companies that negotiate wages.”

Notes:

  • *60% of the median AND 50% of the average wage (based on national full-time gross wages)
  • Collective bargaining figures are ETUI calculations based on data from the ICTWSS Database of the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS) and OECD.
  • Wage figures are taken from Eurostat data on median gross hourly earnings.
  • ETUC response to Commission consultation.

    Photo credit: European Parliament 

Table showing EU member states in order of level of median gross hourly wage (low to high):

Countries (lowest to highest wages)

Collective bargaining coverage

Change in coverage since 2000

Number of workers covered

Number of workers not covered

Bulgaria

23%

- 33%

718,405

2.4m

Romania

23%

- 77%

1.9m

6.4m

Lithuania

7%

- 8%

92,834

1.2m

Latvia

14%

- 4%

121,968

749,200

Hungary

21%

-17%

931,896

3.5m

Poland

17%

-8%

2.7m

13.3m

Slovakia

25%

-26%

637,150

1.9m

Czechia

30%

-5%

1.5m

3.6m

Croatia

45%

-19%

741,330

906,100

Estonia

19%

-4%

121,752

519,000

Portugal

74%

-4%

3443,738

1.2m

Slovenia

71%

-29%

687,067

280,600

Greece

25%

-75%

952,650

2.8m

Cyprus

44%

-19%

179,960

229,000

Malta

50%

-7%

128,100

128,100

Spain

68%

-7%

13.4m

6.3.m

Italy

80%

No change

18.1m

4.5m

Austria

98%

No change 

4.2m

86,100

France

94%

-4% since 2014

25.2m

1.6m

Germany

54%

-14%

22.4m

19.1m

Netherlands

78%

-4%

6.8m

1.9m

Finland

91%

+6%

2.2m

222,700

Belgium

93%

-3%

4.4m

334,600

Luxembourg

59%

-1%

169,389

117,700

Sweden

90%

-4%

4.4m

492,400

Ireland

34%

-8%

771,426

 

1.4m

Denmark

82%

+5

2.2m

503,400

Total EU 27

61%

Not available

119.6m

76.1m

10.09.2020
Communiqué de presse