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Eurostat: Highest share of low-wage earners in Latvia, 25.5 percent, and Romania, 24.4 percent

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One in six employees (17.2 percent) in the European Union was collecting in 2014 a low wage; some of the member states with the highest percentage of low-wage earners are Latvia (25.5 percent) and Romania (24.4 percent), shows data released on Thursday by the Eurostat European statistical office, based on a Structure of Earnings Survey for 2014. 

Across member states, the highest national median gross hourly earning was 5 times higher than the lowest when expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS), which eliminates price level differences between countries. As measured in October 2014, the highest median gross hourly earnings in PPS were recorded in Denmark (18.5 PPS) and Ireland (18.4 PPS), ahead of Belgium (15.4 PPS), Germany and Luxembourg (both 15.0 PPS), the Netherlands and Sweden (both 14.5 PPS). At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest median gross hourly earnings in PPS were registered in Bulgaria (3.6 PPS) and Romania (4.0 PPS), followed by Latvia (5.0 PPS) and Lithuania (5.1 PPS). 

Differences between member states are even more pronounced when median gross hourly earnings are expressed in euros. The highest median gross hourly earning in euro was recorded in Denmark (25.5 euro), ahead of Ireland (20.2), Sweden (18.5), Luxembourg (18.4), Belgium (17.3) and Finland (17.2). In contrast, the lowest median gross hourly earnings in euro were registered in Bulgaria (1.7) and Romania (2.0). In other words, across member states, the highest national median gross hourly earning was 15 times higher than the lowest when expressed in euro. 

Eurostat data also reveals large differences between genders and age groups regarding the proportion of low-wage earners. In the EU in 2014, 21.1 percent of female employees were low-wage earners, compared with 13.5 percent of male employees. Moreover, almost a third (30.1 percent) of employees aged less than 30 were low-wage earners, compared with 14 percent or less for age groups between 30 and 59. 

The level of education also plays an important role: the lower the level, the higher is the likelihood of being a low-wage earner. In the EU in 2014, whereas 28.2 percent of employees with a low education level were low-wage earners, the proportion decreased to 20.9 percent for those with a medium education level and to less than 7 percent (6.4 percent) for employees with a high education level.

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