Should EU countries agree to a common European minimum wage? Many economists argue that Europe has benefited from cheap labour costs in Central and Eastern Europe, but the rise of populist, anti-immigration parties suggests that not everybody is happy with this dynamic. Critics have long argued that wages are being kept down in Western Europe because workers in Eastern Europe are willing to accept much lower pay. Could the solution be to pay them more?

We had a comment sent in on our “Suggest a Debate” page from maier, who asked when the EU would have a minimum wage.

At the moment, minimum wage policies vary enormously across all EU member states. In Sweden and Denmark, for example, there is no national minimum wage, with salaries being agreed by sector through collective bargaining between unions and employers. And among those countries that do pay a minimum wage, the difference in the sums involved is vast; the national minimum wage in Bulgaria is just 235 EUR per month, which is almost ten times lower than the minimum wage in Luxembourg.

Should there be a European minimum wage? Or are European economies too different for a European minimum wage to be realistic? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Leonard J Matthews


116 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • Teo Nagy

      Would hurt eastern eu businesses especially, and lower quality of life in west

    • Hr Tom Mosen

      at the same time giving the poorest citizens a lifeworthy income…well i wouldnt mind if the rich and upper middel class had to pay for that expence. thir living standart needs regulation anyway, or there will grow a solid wall of nepotisme around them.
      in regards to ‘hurt eu buisness’ – eu buisness have been riding the backs of the lower classes for 30 years now! when will we see some workers rights, and welthfare projects?…there are plenty of buisness projects – but no projects to highten the living standart of the population…

  1. Virsta Gregory

    yes, good question…but the wage is calculated on each GDP… i can not expect that Romanians to have the same minimum wage as the Germans, or from Luxembourg…

  2. Teo Nagy

    No, would hurt eastern eu businesses and lower west eu wages by a lot

  3. Ivan Burrows

    .

    It would be interesting to see who is going to pay for it, I can’t imagine they will be happy.

    • Ivan Burrows

      .

      It would increase emigration to richer member states due to a fall in investment in poorer nations leading to fewer jobs.

      Global economics 101

  4. Azad Maruf

    Not would be like that as long as the money and media powered energetic waves were controled by desires of some well known political leaders…That Era is the Era of corruption but you are as European people are little bit selfish and not willing to comprehend that phenominon…

    • Faddi Zsolt

      Absolutely! Economy is basically not else than maximalisation of capital at any costs, so it’s the maximal exploitation of any resources. As such a phenomenon it is dangerous to humanity and living organisms, and our environment. The robbed goods must be returned to people as a minimal income, or economy must be drastically changed…

  5. Ivan Burrows

    .

    Companies invest in poor countries because of the lower labour costs so if you make them pay more it would only decrease the investment and thereby increase unemployment and emigration.

  6. Tobias Stricker

    We have a German saying: Gut gemeint ist das Gegenteil von gut gemacht. (Good intentions are the opposite of doing something good.)

    • İvor Jelic

      Why? Because they would have some money instead of being cashless?

    • Karlo Definis

      Because being poor and free is better than being poor and under communist (“socialist”) state… which this would be.

    • Karlo Definis

      I will not add an insult to the injury that is being you. Raised better than that. Be well and I hope you make it.

  7. Tobias Stricker

    What should be the benefit? basically, all EU countries HAVE a minimum wage. Raising it to the level of the wealthiest nation across all Europe? This minimum wage is just protectionism of the rich countries to protect them against cheaper competition. The real problem is that we do not have a real common market where craftsmen from Poland can do a project in Germany or a Spanish construction company build a street in France.

    • Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

      I wouldn’t say that, actually we have the exact opposite for example a construction worker from Greece how is working for a Greek company on a project in France will be payed a Greek wage. ..

    • Tobias Stricker

      Παυλος Χαραλαμπους The problem is that exactly this is not the case. It differs a little from the national laws on it, but even a truck driver driving through for example Germany has to be paid for that hours the German minimum wage. They specially introduced it to protect German truck driver. This shows the absurdity. Same for construction. The problem with this is that the weaker economies are weak because they cannot compete in producing goods either with the high-tech countries or with the Asian low wage countries. They are stuck between. Their only option is services offered for a lower price to the wealthy countries. But because this would create pressure on the low skilled worker in that rich countries, they make crazy protectionism and is leaving the weaker economies with no options.

  8. Guillem Martí Bou

    Never-Jamais-Nunca.

    Fix a public price about a commodity (Work in this case) always drive to the misery. In this case very much higher unemployement in the less productive groups of workers.

  9. Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

    Yes and no i mean yes there must be a minimum basic wage based on the ” cost of living ” in every country ..at least it ill every country in the union can be ” synchronized “

  10. Angelo Bayada

    I’m with Pavlos. Minimum wage compulsory to a certain standard rather than a universal sum otherwise it will either stiff workers in more expensive countries or ruin workers in cheaper countries

  11. Imanuel d'Anjou

    How about we first go about enforcing the laws already in place? I don’t think a Romanian or Bulgarian minimum wage is relatively worse than others, but make sure they get it because this is still a bigger problem.

    No point in raising the bar if it is out of reach anyways

  12. Diogo Santos

    Absolutely not; that would drive unemployment given the different productivity levels.

  13. Rachel O'Connor

    No, but we need a global corporate tax rate to ensure they pay fairly in any country they operate in.

  14. Anna Tsoukala

    Are we dreaming here?? This can never happen because each and every country has its own GDP. Besides the richer countries are greedy. ….. don’t want to share their wealth….good morning from sunny Athens.

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      @Anna Tsoukala
      I think some EU countries would share their wealth with poorer LESS CORRUPT and LESS LAZY countries.

  15. ironworker

    EU minimum wage is the nicest dream for the naive eastern europeans. It’s not gonna happened, ever. Excuse my skepticism, but from personal perspectives, EU is more like “Obey, or we will crush you!” rather than “Let’s solve it in a less painful and harmful manner for those exposed more to the dramatic changes”. In theory, an across EU minimum wage will skip a tremendous amount of trouble, especially regarding central politics centrifugal tendencies, and masked economic protectionism perspectives. But again, it’s too good to be true.

  16. Róbert Bogdán

    No. Universal minimum wage is a bad idea, it hurts the economy. Instead, negotiations between unions and employers, on a sector-by-sector basis, would be preferable.

    • Nicolette Ladoulis

      How has that been working..ask the Belgian dairy farmers..

    • Róbert Bogdán

      What’s the relevance? Are you referring to the CETA deal?

    • EU Reform- Proactive

      ……….that makes more sense! Question: does the Eunion insinuate wishing to act as “trade union” in future as well? Paradox or typical politburo thinking?

  17. Emrah Sarısoy

    I believe it shouldn’t be questioned even. We must question the logic of minimum salary. If there is a minimum salary it must be set based on the minimum standards. Then the question becomes what is the minimum standard for a human being in that country.

  18. Vitor F Veiga

    Yes. Since automation and big multinationals like google take all the business, there should be some social security net.

  19. Eugene Kelly

    Unfortunately, as a society, we promote greed – we even have a “rich list” where people with more money and property than they can ever use jostle for the “privilege” of having the biggest number.

    I have some admiration for Bill Gates, who appears to be using his fortune to do some good. I noticed that he has been overtaken by the bids of Amazon – I don’t even remember his name, just that he has no interest in philanthropy.

  20. Rob Eastham

    Yes, but setting the level will need be tricky. I imagine it would need to be staggered and gradually harmonised across the EU.

  21. Maricela Potoc

    Yes. A decent European minimum wage would also diminish immigration from Eastern European countries because it would allow us to have a good life here and not worry about bills when we work 8h/day. The national minimum wage we have now doesn’t really cover even the basic expenses for an individual like food and shelter. You should not continue this situation anymore. People working full-time should get enough to have a decent life living alone.

    • Eugene Kelly

      It might also encourage the poor to achieve a better life. Why should they suffer just because you don’t like the lazy?

    • Daniel Octavian Nita

      In my opinion being lazy is not a problem at all. It becomes a problem only when those who are lazy pretend to receive money on a long time basis. In my opinion EU should find other type of public policies to help poor persons, including better access to education and to jobs, as well as better access to develop their own business (start-ups).

    • Ivan Burrows

      Eugene Kelly

      Why should the German tax payer subsidise wages in the East & South of the EU ?

    • Eugene Kelly

      I don’t know – perhaps because a Europe where everyone has sufficient would be better than what we have now?

    • Daniel Octavian Nita

      Eugene Kelly , this is utopia. People should have sufficient in a sustainable way. Sufficiency cannot be achieved by giving money on long term basis to those who chose a “passive” way of life. The communist experiment failed all over the world and it is so obvious why it failed.

  22. Jo Butcher

    Perhaps it should be done as a percentage, rather than a € figure. Each country (based on cost of living, houses, rent.etc) has a to have a percentage “worth” as opposed to the country with the highest minimum wage. Something along those lines.

  23. Matej Mlinarič

    Its not that simple to just select a number and force it on businesses. Sure there should be a wage that is sufficient to live on but to determine how much that is presents a problem. Cause ultimately its up to businesses to determine how much can they afford to pay and cover the expenses for employees and rest of goods. So if you don’t take this things into consideration then businesses will be forced to have less employed and those that do work will have to do more. But if businesses want to exploit their workforce and enrich themselves instead then someone would have to step in to keep them in line for sake of greater good which is community that depends on those wages.

  24. Deniss K Victorovich

    Well it is failure to have same monetary policy without fiscal policy, so yes atleast it will balance dysfunctional equation of GDP

  25. Filipe Nunes

    I think it’s not a bad idea, but it seems a little utopic for now, since the economies and fiscal systems of the different member states are very different. So, start by harmonizing the different fiscal systems. But I agree that there should be a minimum wage in place in every country.

  26. Julia Hadjikyriacou

    Yes, a more social EU, EU wide. Enough with minimum wages being different in different countries. The economic benefits should not just be for corporations, it should include people. Also the actual benefits system shoukd be equal. My brother got treated very unfairly in Cyprus because he left to work in another EU member country and when he came back to Cyprus he wasn’t covered when he lost his new job in Cyprus. Disgusting. What is the point of free EU travel if you get penalised for doing it?

  27. Georgia

    Sure, why not? Same qualifications, same jobs, same income. But please let us copy the Schandinavian basic income. We are all worth it.

  28. Stefania Portici

    prima dell’Unione europea e dell’euro in Europa tutti lavoravano ed avevano uno stipendio dignitoso con tutte le tutele sociali. Ci viene chiesto quello che vogliamo? Nè più e nè meno di quello che avevamo prima della UE e dell’euro. Before the European Union and the euro in Europe everyone was working and had a decent salary with all social protection. Are we asked what we want? No more or less than what we had before the EU and the euro.

  29. Ricardo Garcia Pereira

    As a portuguese, I know what happens with a minimun wage:
    All salaries will follow the rule of the lowest value, when the labour market saturates.

    Portuguese minimum wage is very low. People can barably survive.

    So it would be a great ideia, but big “interests ” would live milions to povetry.

    Or the european minimum wage would be an huge amount in countries like Portugal, or People will starve uns countries like Austria and Germany…

  30. Stefano Zuzzi

    In my country , the women are less payed than the men ; not the same for the Denmark.
    Denmark has the best ( social ) , quality standards .

  31. Yordan Vasilev

    YES! The prices and the taxes are as in Western Europe, but salaries are lower between five to ten times than in old European countries.

  32. Edita Buržinskaitė

    Yes, that would be nice. It would also reduce emigration from poorer EU Member States into the richer ones from which all of them would benefit.

    • Javier Ramírez Domínguez

      No, you didn’t get it, the idea is to invest in making richer the poorest countries

    • Александър Михайлов

      That is what you rhink is going to happen. That is what the communists claimed they wanted. But instead of making the poorest richer, they ended up making everyone poorer. I am beginning to think that everything the EU does is harmful. Levelling the minimum wage across Europe will instantly make it harder for labor from poorer countries to compete, and there is no immediate solution to this, and until one is found, this would make people from poorer countries even poorer. Replacing all competition inside the EU with cooperation will bring about the socialist utopia of everyone becoming equally poor.

  33. Misty

    Yeah. UBIE is the correct path for EU. You better do it asap

  34. EU Reform- Proactive

    “At the moment, minimum wage policies vary enormously across all EU member states. “ ……..with good reasons……….! Neoliberal EUConmission isn’t it in your “comparative interest” to keep that way! Creating the illusion of fairness & socialism?

    Bulgarians- it’s an EU/DE invitation to invade & overrun Luxembourg’s paradise- why wait!

  35. Daniel Pluskota

    yes. Now its like one union and two worlds. The same position: 500 EUR vs 2000 EUR while cost of getting by isnt proportional to avg national salary.

  36. Maia Alexandrova

    It is not practical to do that, if EU is not one country with one economy.

    To fight poverty, there could be an EU Social Protection Fund which would guarantee a minimum income of €500 per person per month for every citizen, ONLY in case they live with less than that. It doesn’t matter whether a person is employed, unemployed, a child or a pensioner. This fund would also take care of EU internal migrants and replace the need for individual countries to provide for them. Immigration will fall anyway, because people will not feel forced to look for a job in another country, if their low income is compensated in their home country. I have no idea how many million people in the EU live with less than €500 a month, but it may mean that EU membership for each country is increased to up to 5% of GDP, while other EU funds are reduced. Also there could be a requirement for each country to have a minimum wage of at least €500, in order to be covered by the Social Fund.

  37. Anders Molin

    The interest rates goes up because people are borrowing. Better to give them an income that provides for food and shelter. A basic income.

  38. Paul X

    To those advocating UBI, there are several flaws in the proposal…

    Firstly, to work it has to actually be “Universal” i.e.global…..If Europe goes it alone all that would happen is European goods go up in price to fund UBI but the people will spend more of there money outside Europe buying cheaper goods on the global market so the net result is a drain on the European economy..the only way to prevent this is a (more) protectionist Europe forcing people to buy expensive goods and therefore negating most of the advantage of UBI

    ….and if you think Europe has an immigration problem at the moment can you imagine how it will be if everyone finds out how much you can get for doing sweet FA in Europe?

    The supposed funding boost from not having to manage a social security system….all this means is job losses and less tax revenues from people who are currently working for the social security

    Some people are incapable of managing money and will blow it all on drink, cigarettes and drugs..what is the safety net for these people to prevent them killing themselves (or their kids) through neglect…a social security system? (see above)

    The problem finding people willing to do the unpopular low paid jobs, some people work to survive, give them free money and they will quit work

    Those who don’t need it will just save it, therefore taking more money out of the economy

    Don’t get me wrong, I would love an extra few hundred £ a month to put aside for a luxury holiday every year, but unfortunately I don’t see it happening in my lifetime

    • catherine benning

      @ Paul X

      What you write stands up only if you decide the European standard of living must fall, in order to correspond with the rest of the world. Where, as you say, our costs result in what you term, expensive. Expense, in real terms, is relative and based on perception.

      As I wrote on another thread, to remain at our present standard of living, which is rapidly deteriorating with governmental encouraged influx of low paid third world expectations, protectionism is a must. And this protectionism has to encompass all levels of the economy and society. Protectionism is the essence of survival. We must become self sufficient, with high standards for our quality of life. Not low standards of health, food, lifestyle conditions (sewers) and expectations. We are dragging our standards down to third world levels, rather than raising every aspect of our lives out of the horrors we see elsewhere. And by doing so, encourage the rest of the planet to aspire to and adopt what they see in widespread Europe. And please don’t say this is not possible. That is a ridiculous point of view. The will is all that is needed. Along with the ability to envision the concept.

      Globalists will homogenise Europe to the equivalent of the lowest, so there is no perceptible difference between our standard of living and expectation, as there is to those who are unwilling to demand it be theirs. It suits the pockets of the top earners to do so. They want the least amount of choice to promote global marketing. To make it possible to be the lowest quality provided by the fewest number of suppliers.They despise quality and durability. As well as individuality, and a perception of choice in difference. Which, is why, for example, all the cars we see today, no matter cost, or, name, look identical. It is enforced universality..

      The biggest problem Europe has is political correctness and the stultifying effect this lunacy has on the population. It is not acceptable to endure and grovel in lower standards because to speak of it offends. How crazy is such thinking? It’s the equivalent of saying, we must founder in sewage, as to draw attention to its stench, may offend the rectum.

      There has to be a European minimum wage. And closed border thinking, to raise the aspirations of the planet. Without that, we will remain on this overwhelming downward spiral of human existence.

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