The FINANCIAL — The proportion of low-wage earners among employees amounted to 17.2% in 2014 in the European Union (EU). This means that they earned two-thirds or less of their national median gross hourly earnings.
There are large differences between genders and age groups regarding the proportion of low-wage earners. In the EU in 2014, 21.1% of female employees were low-wage earners, compared with 13.5% of male employees. Moreover, almost a third (30.1%) of employees aged less than 30 were low wage earners, compared with 14% or less for age groups between 30 and 59.
The level of education also plays an important role: the lower the level, the higher is the likelihood of being a low- wage earner. In the EU in 2014, while 28.2% of employees with a low education level were low-wage earners, the proportion decreased to 20.9% for those with a medium education level and to less than 7% (6.4%) for employees with a high education level. The type of contract also has a significant impact. In the EU in 2014, 31.9% of employees with a contract of limited duration were low-wage earners, compared with 15.3% of those with an indefinite contract.
Highest share of low-wage earners in Latvia, lowest in Sweden
The proportion of low wage earners continued to vary significantly between Member States in 2014. The highest percentages were observed in Latvia (25.5%), Romania (24.4%), Lithuania (24.0%) and Poland (23.6%), followed by Estonia (22.8%), Germany (22.5%), Ireland (21.6%) and the United Kingdom (21.3%). In contrast, less than 10% of employees were low wage earners in Sweden (2.6%), Belgium (3.8%), Finland (5.3%), Denmark (8.6%), France (8.8%) and Italy (9.4%).
Median gross hourly earnings vary by 1 to 5 between Member States when expressed in PPS…
Across Member States, the highest national median gross hourly earning was 5 times higher than the lowest when expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS), which eliminates price level differences between countries. As measured in October 2014, the highest median gross hourly earnings in PPS were recorded in Denmark (18.5 PPS) and Ireland (18.4 PPS), ahead of Belgium (15.4 PPS), Germany and Luxembourg (both 15.0 PPS), the Netherlands and Sweden (both 14.5 PPS). At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest median gross hourly earnings in PPS were registered in Bulgaria (3.6 PPS) and Romania (4.0 PPS), followed by Latvia (5.0 PPS) and Lithuania (5.1 PPS).
… and by 1 to 15 when expressed in euros
Differences between Member States are even more pronounced when median gross hourly earnings are expressed in euros. The highest median gross hourly earning in euro was recorded in Denmark (€25.5), ahead of Ireland (€20.2), Sweden (€18.5), Luxembourg (€18.4), Belgium (€17.3) and Finland (€17.2). In contrast, the lowest median gross hourly earnings in euro were registered in Bulgaria (€1.7) and Romania (€2.0), followed by Lithuania (€3.1), Latvia (€3.4) and Hungary (€3.6). In other words, across Member States, the highest national median gross hourly earning was 15 times higher than the lowest when expressed in euros.