Minimum wage grows

BRUSSELS – The minimum legal monthly wage of employees rose to 668 euros in Greece in January of this year. This amount is on a par with that of other Mediterranean EU countries, but remains far below the respective rates in other Western EU members and considerably above of new EU members in Central Europe. Eurostat data show that Greece lies 13th among the old 15 EU members, above Spain and Portugal, and in a similar ranking to Malta and Slovenia, two of the new member states. However, when purchasing power parities (PPPs) are taken into account, i.e. the fictional currency that eliminates price differences from country to country, Greece lies seventh among the 18 EU states to have introduced the minimum wage. Employees in the Baltic states are the worst off in absolute numbers, as the minimum wage in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania did not exceed 200 euros. Luxembourg tops the table with 1,503 euros, rapidly developing Ireland had a minimum wage of 1,293 euros, followed by the Netherlands (1,273 euros) and Belgium (1,234 euros). Among candidate EU members, Turkey’s minimum wage stood in January at 331 euros, Romania’s was at 90 euros and Bulgaria’s at just 82 euros. Notably, Greece and Spain are the only states where 14 monthly salaries are paid every year; this element has been factored into these figures. Measured in PPPs, the Greek minimum wage reached the figure of 785, higher even than the US minimum wage (779 PPPs). The divide between Europe’s east and west, and north and south, is more evident in this measurement. Luxembourg is again on top at 1,417 PPPs while Latvia is last with 240 PPPs. Bulgaria is even lower, though, at only 191 PPPs. Luxembourg is also the country with the highest portion of workers receiving the minimum wage (18 percent), followed by France (15.6 percent) and Lithuania (12.1 percent). Spain only has 0.8 percent of workers receiving the minimum, with Britain a close second (1.4 percent of all employees). There are no such data about Greece available. Greece is the only EU country which has a separate minimum wage for manual laborers.