Thirteen million Europeans fall below the EU’s poverty line despite having fulltime jobs, especially in Germany, according to a new analysis by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).
At the same time, the number of ‘poor’ full-time workers has grown over the past five years, the study showed.
Workers can be counted as ‘poor’ if they earn 50% or less than the average in a specific country.
“The risk of living in poverty has increased in the past years and increased the most among workers in full-time jobs. It’s a thought-provoking and worrying development. Previously we saw that if you had a full-time job, you would have a salary which you could live of, but this is no longer the case,” Maria Jepsen, research chief at ETUI, told the Danish newspaper Politiken.
The trend is especially visible by Germany, where the economic crisis, jobs moving to Eastern Europe, and workers arriving from new member states has put wages under pressure particularly in the transport, hotel and cleaning industries.
In some sectors the real wage has fallen between 10-18% in only a few years, while growing almost 20% in other sectors.
Lars Andersen, director of the Economic Council of the Labour Market in Denmark, calls the situation in parts of the German labour market, ‘the Wild West’.
“The consequence is that the German society will be so skewed that every fifth worker in Germany is low-paid. Even if they work full-time, they don’t have a wage to give their family a decent life. It will be difficult to provide housing and food on the table, and they won’t be able to afford vacations,” Andersen said.
Thomas Rickers, chairman of the German metal workers at the Baltic Coast, told Politiken that the German labour market isn’t a role model.
“It sounds good when you hear about the economic development in Germany – low unemployment and surplus in the trade balance. But one forgets that millions of workers have paid and still pay for ‘the German model’ with falling wages,” Rickers said.
All European Election candidates have called for a more social Europe, whilst Europe is sometimes seen as a source of social dumping, especially in relation to posted workers.
The current establishment of a youth guarantee is considered one of the last legislation’s key advances on Europe’s social side.
To go further still, the issue of a common European insurance is gradually gaining ground, as is the idea of a European basic income.
- 22-25 May: European Parliament elections
European Trade Union Institute (ETUI): Developments in inequality and social protection in Europe
- Politiken: Millions of European go home poor from work [In Danish]