Prices converge, but workers in Greece still paid peanuts

Say a Greek and a German study together at the same university. They like the same subjects and are eager to devote themselves to study. On returning to their respective countries, they obtain similar posts. At the end of the month, one of them will receive one-third of the other’s salary – it is hardly necessary to say who. Greece has a huge earnings gap when compared with other European Union countries. Ordinary employees in Europe are paid more than are doctors, teachers and scientists in Greece, according to a survey of 25 professions by Kathimerini, while ordinary employees in Greece are paid peanuts by EU standards. A hospital doctor in Greece, with 10 years of experience, receives a monthly salary of about 1,750 euros, while his counterpart in England earns 3,900 euros, in Germany, 4,500 euros, and in France, 5,500 euros. Correspondingly, the salary of a department head in the Greek public sector comes to 1,500 euros, while his German and French counterparts receive 3,750 euros. There is a huge differential in teachers’ salaries as well. A Greek primary school teacher with 10 years of experience is paid less than half of what his European colleagues get, while university lecturers’ monthly earnings seldom come to more than 2,400 euros. In Britain, lecturers’ earnings come to 4,500 euros and in Germany, 5,800 euros. There are even sharper differentials in low-paid jobs – a company telephonist is paid 600 euros on average in Greece, 1,500 euros in England and about 1,750 euros in Germany. Secretaries, salespeople, staff working a cash register, and so on, tell the same story. There is less difference in jobs with a high social status, such as advertising executives, who are paid only 700 euros less than their counterparts in Germany. However, earnings comparisons in the EU are exceptionally difficult, due to the unavailability of accurate data. Moreover, differences among states in the way they calculate pay, taxation and social security contributions lead to some uncertainty as to the reliability of the comparisons. Nevertheless, the General Confederation of Greek Labor’s (GSEE) Labor Institute (INE), in its yearly report, said, «The difference between earnings in Greece and the EU average is great enough to render any statistical uncertainties unimportant.» In the manufacturing sector, the gap in wages between Greek and EU employees comes to 16 percent. But in sectors of commerce, communications and transport, wages are the second lowest in Europe, with Portugal in last place. In 1999, average monthly earnings came to 1,093 euros as against 1,850 euros for the EU average. Even taking into account the cost of living does not narrow the gap by much. Few basic goods and services are cheaper here than in northern Europe. However, a recent survey by Kathimerini showed that Greeks pay as much for household goods as their counterparts in Germany and Belgium. As shown by the comparison of wages in purchasing power units, which take into consideration price differentials in household goods, low-paid earners in Greece have the lowest purchasing power in Europe, with the exception of Portugal. In collating earnings for England, Germany, France and Italy, we were helped by Panayiotis Koumitzelis, Dimitris Paraskevopoulos, Vanessa Theodoropoulou and Tommaso Gesmundo.

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