For or against a European minimum wage?

Numéro 1

Learn the ropes

What are the current minimum wages in the EU Member States?
Today, a national minimum wage is implemented in 22 member states of the European Union. Countries like Sweden, Finland, Italy, Denmark, Austria and Cyprus do not have a unique minimum wage.

The wealth gaps between countries also appear in the minimum wage level: indeed, in 2014, the highest minimum wage was registered in Luxembourg (1921€), and the lowest in Bulgaria (174€).

What would a European minimum wage look like?
According to its defenders, an introduction of a minimum wage at the European level would stop underpaid work in Europe by fighting against wage gaps and inequalities between countries.

It would consist in a generalised raise of European salaries according to the “equal pay for equal work” principle. As Brussels doesn’t have the power to harmonise nor to impose a minimum wage everywhere in Europe, we cannot mention any specific wage level.

In the beginning, introduction of a European minimum wage would impact only a few countries.

For example: if Europe implemented a minimum wage of 200€, it would impact Bulgaria, which would have to rise the country’s minimum wage, but it would not impact France, who already implementing a minimum wage higher than 200€.

The main objective it to progressively rise the minimum threshold for all Member States of the EU.

Why are we currently discussing it?
The idea of introducing an European minimum wage has often been a part of party platforms of several conservative and socialist candidates running for the EP elections. Next elections of the representatives to the European Parliament will take place this year, in May 2019. It’s a good opportunity to relaunch the debate on minimum wage!
Numéro 2

Choose your side

The idea behind the Rift is simple: for each topic of debate, we provide you with an expertise based on a pro-con approach, written by competent and legitimate experts. We want to help you make your own opinion, and guide you on first steps to civic engagement.


FOR a rise of European minimum wages!

Thiébaut Weber

Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)

Minimum wages protect workers from poverty when they stop the process of leveling down the wages and guarantee their decent level.

Even though the minimum wage is a widespread instrument among the 22 Member States of the European Union, their level is still too low in most of the countries. An information note published by the ETUC shows that minimum wages are so inferior to the official threshold, that many European citizens must struggle to make ends meet.

In 10 European countries the minimum wage is located at 50% or more below the national median wage level. This obviously makes it difficult to make a decent living with the money earned by workers.

Time has come to take strong measures for minimum wages through a larger policy

Minimum wages serve only if they protect workers from poverty. The fight against unfair competition is a European challenge, and more efforts should be put in order to fight against social dumping. We need to address the root causes of social dumping by modifying the gaps between minimum wages in European countries.

The time has come to take strong measures for minimum wages through a larger policy which would support a relaunch of a social convergence in Europe. A common strategy on minimum wages must reach towards the objective of applying two principles: the one of equal pay for equal work and the fight against inequalities.

Collective bargaining is essential in order to “complete” minimum wages

Since last year, the ETUC has committed to promote an increase of wages in Europe through a stronger general trade union policy and a stronger support for collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is essential in order to “complete” minimum wages and to guarantee salary scales, ensuring a fair distribution of added value everywhere in Europe, as well as regular salary progression for workers.

The priority of the ETUC’s campaign for wages’ increase is first to fight against poverty and inequalities.

The first priority target of the ETUC’s campaign for wages increase is to fight against poverty and inequalities. The second target is to relaunch salaries’ convergence between Western and Eastern Europe, the North and the South, and between men and women, in order to eliminate all kinds of discrimination.


European minimum wage: a federalist pipe dream

Nicolas Bay

Vice-president of National Rally (political party), Member of the European Parliament, Co-chair of the group Europe of Nations and Freedom, Chair of the group National Rally in Regional Council of Normandy

The supporters of European federalism, in particular the “leftists”, have been advocating for over two decades for an introduction of a European minimum wage. According to them, it would help to effectively fight against inequalities, by introducing a legal threshold imposing a minimum level of salaries.

To advocate for this idea is to forget that unfair competition does not only depend on wage policy as on “adjustment variable” between the different countries of the EU. If we follow this logic, we would need to introduce uniform employer and employee contributions, as well as fiscal charges on salaries, in order to have a coherent action… Harmonising gross wages would have no effectiveness without taking a look into the net wage.

Unfair competition does not only depend on wage policy

We hence observe that this headlong rush relies more on a federalist utopia than on a serious evaluation of economic realities of each European nation.

The gaps between the EU Member States are indeed very important: the lowest minimum wage is in Bulgaria with 184 euros, the highest in Luxembourg at 1 921 euros. France is on the 4th place with 1 458 euros per month !

Introducing a minimum wage at the European level would in particular increase wages in Central and Eastern Europe, and drastically decrease those in countries like France, hit by a following leveling-down.

The will of introducing an European minimum wage would not resolve at all the problem of unfair competition. It represents the conception of an even more autocratic Europe trying to end with nation’s specificities in the name of globalism.

Each country of the EU must be free to introduce it’s own level of minimum wage

At the time when most of the European nations are facing big budgeting challenges, we are struggling to imagine how the Member States would accept to comply with inadequate and impossible measures, implemented by a disconnected and profoundly rejected European Commission.

Each country of the EU must be free to introduce it’s own level of minimum wage, depending on it’s level of development and on the sovereignty of the decision! This is the whole purpose of the project: a Europe which would let our nations breathe and which would respect their fundamental liberties.

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