One in 6 earns minimum wage
Minimum wage comparisons with other EU member states is in fact more revealing than a comparison of monthly earnings. Christos Triandafyllos, researcher at the GSEE Labor Institute, pointed out that 16 percent of salaried workers earn the minimum wage in Greece, when in Spain, a country often used for economic comparisons, the figure is no more than 1 percent. The fact that the minimum wage in Greece is 605 euros, when in Spain and Portugal it is 537 and 498 euros respectively, according to Eurostat data, should hardly make Greeks feel more complacent than their counterparts on the Iberian peninsula, especially when just ahead of Greece is Ireland, with a minimum wage of 1,073 euros, followed by France with 1,173 euros and the Netherlands with 1,265 euros. Triandafyllos also highlighted the fact that only in nine countries of the former EU15 has a national minimum wage been officially established. In the other countries, it is determined by sector. Small rise The same study revealed that the minimum wage in Greece increased by 100 euros from 1999 to 2004 (from 505 to 605 euros). During this period, British workers earning minimum wage saw their earnings increase from 866 to 1,083 euros, in Belgium from 1,074 to 1,186 euros and in Luxembourg from 1,162 to 1,403 euros. If minimum wage comparisons provide an image of a three-tier Europe with Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic with the lowest earnings (from 61 to 240 euros), Slovenia, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Greece in the middle with earnings ranging from 471 to 605 euros, and Ireland, the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg at the top with minimum earnings over 1,000 euros, the differences are considerably reduced when purchasing power is also taken into account, with Greece faring even worse. If earnings are calculated in terms of purchasing power, then the minimum wage in Luxembourg drops from 1,403 euros to 1,237, whereas in Greece the amount rises from 605 to 774 euros. However the purchasing power of the Greeks is much less than that of the Maltese; the latter earn a minimum wage of 543 euros but their purchasing power is 821 euros. Last but one In terms of average monthly earnings, Greece was last but one in 2004 (Portugal was at the bottom), a position the country has not moved from in the past few years. Average monthly earnings amount to 1,315 euros (in Portugal 1,066 euros) when the EU average is 2,030 euros. More specifically, in Spain the average monthly wage is 1,564 euros, in Italy 1,642 euros, in France 2,142 euros and in the Netherlands 2,574 euros. Over the last few years, the average net wage in Greece has increased more than the lowest net wage, with the result that their analogy has decreased from 55 percent in 1994 to 47 percent in 2002. When examining the average gross earnings in the 15 EU member states in terms of purchasing power parity, the purchasing power of a Greek worker on a monthly wage is 83 percent of the EU average, while in Portugal it is just 69 percent, but in Spain it is as high as 94 percent. Apart from low salaries and the high cost of living, there is a huge economic disparity between Greece and its partners. As highlighted in the GSEE Labor Institute report, the only EU country that is worse off than Greece is Portugal. More specifically, since 1995 the income of 20 percent of the more affluent Greeks has increased six times in comparison to that the least affluent Greeks. The corresponding figure for Germany is four times, for Spain five times and for Finland three times.