Thursday 18 January 2018

Ireland's minimum wage is the second-highest in Europe

Civil servants owed the State at least €4.6m at end of last year because of salary overpayments that had not been returned. Stock photo
Civil servants owed the State at least €4.6m at end of last year because of salary overpayments that had not been returned. Stock photo

Sean Duffy

Ireland has the second highest minimum wage of any country in the EU, according to data released by Eurostat.

The minimum wage for Irish workers works out as €1,563 per month, behind only Luxembourg, whose minimum wage is €1,999 a month.

Most countries in the EU provide a standardised monthly rate of pay. However, Ireland's minimum wage is calculated by adding up the hourly minimum wage and multiplying it by the standard working hours per week in the country - currently 39.

While Ireland's hourly rate of pay (€9.25) is one of the highest in the EU, it still ranks below that of France (€9.76).

However, because the French work fewer hours every week (35), the average Irish worker on minimum wage takes home an extra €83 per month compared to their French counterparts.

Ireland is one of seven western European countries that rank at of the top of the minimum wage category. Holland has the third- highest (€1,552), followed by Belgium (€1,532), with Germany in fifth place on €1,498.

While the Irish economy is growing at the fastest rate in the EU, industry leaders are urging caution about increased costs for businesses.

Thomas Burke, Director of Retail Ireland, says that minimum wage increases in Ireland over recent years have put pressure on businesses.

"The Irish minimum wage has risen by 7pc over the past two years and it is our opinion that it should not be increased further," Mr Burke said, adding that external uncertainties should temper Irish policymakers' approach.

"With the challenges that Brexit is going to bring, we believe that further increases to the minimum wage would be very detrimental to businesses. The Irish minimum wage is already way out of sync with Northern Ireland and the UK, which is what Irish retailers are competing with."

The UK has the seventh-highest minimum wage in the EU, although the report notes that the figure is subject to exchange rate fluctuation.

A Siptu spokesperson said the Eurostat figures did not reflect the pressures that low-paid workers in Ireland are under. "In other countries there is far better access to education, health and public services," said the trade union, which has called on the Government to introduce a 'living wage', which could "adequately address" the needs of low-paid workers.

"We believe that there should be a living wage of between €11 and €11.50," Siptu added.

"That is the minimum rate at which an employee can afford to survive in this country when you factor in things like rent and childcare."

The report appears to underline a three-tiered Europe, with the countries paying the highest minimum wage being the most affluent. They are followed by a group of Mediterranean countries that pay their employees considerably less.

The minimum wage in Portugal stands at €650 per month, while in Greece the lowest-paid workers take home €684. Greece is the only country in the EU where the rate has fallen since 2014, declining by 14pc over that period.

Slovenian workers also made it into this category, earning €805.

Workers in the 10 eastern European member states earned less than €500 per month, albeit these countries have seen the minimum wage grow at a much faster rate since 2008.

Irish Independent

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