Employment MEPs use hearing to debate minimum wage

Institutions - 20-09-2007 - 13:06
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A piece of bread and some Euro coins. © BELGA/ILLUSTRA/Pelaez Julio

Only 7 of the European Union countries do not have a statuary minimum wage. In the remaining 20 the level varies considerably from €92 Euro a month in Bulgaria to €1570 in Luxembourg. A hearing by the Employment Committee on 12 September looked at the extent to which minimum wages actually help tackle social exclusion. One of the issues raised was the plight of "the working poor" - people with jobs but on the poverty line. Women, children and those over 65 are particularly affected by this.

Supporters of the minimum wage believe that its helps lift people out of poverty and narrow the gap between rich and the poor. In particular they argue that it helps low income families and working women. Isabella Biletta of the European foundation for living and working conditions told the hearing that the majority of people in low paid jobs are women.
However, many - particularly in the business community - believe that having a minimum wage can hurt small businesses as they raise costs. They also argue that it leads to unemployment and inflation. They believe the consumer also suffers as the final cost is passed on to them.
All these arguments were advanced at various points in the hearing by various speakers. At present the setting of a minimum wage is at a national level. The hearing came in preparation for an own-initiative report on social protection and social inclusion that is being written at the initiative of UK Liberal Member Liz Lynne.
At work and still poor
At the hearing MEPs were presented with information by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) which showed that employment is no guarantor of evading poverty. According to the Committee the "at risk of poverty" rate is still quite high for those in employment. Across the EU taken as a whole it stands at 8%, raging from 3% in the Czech Republic to 13% in Greece and 14% in Poland and Portugal. The current Portuguese Presidency of the EU has made fighting social exclusion and poverty one of its priorities.
Highest and lowest minimum wages
The level of the minimum wage depends on the country and the standard of living within that state. In Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK the level is above €1200. In contrast Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania have levels below €200 Euro.
The seven countries that do not have a minimum wage are Cyprus, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Austria.
REF.: 20070913STO10373