Living conditions and quality of life

Wages in long-term care and other social services 21% below average

New data from the EU Structure of Earnings Survey (SES) show that, on average, EU Member States paid their social services workers 21% less than the average national hourly earnings in 2018: this compares with 19% less than the average in 2010 and 20% less in 2014. The majority of social services workers (69.3%) work in the long-term care sector.

Earnings well below national average in all Member States

In all Member States, the average hourly earnings of social services workers are well below the average earned by all workers (see table below). The difference is smallest in the Netherlands, where social services workers earn 96% of average earnings, and in Austria and Luxembourg (both 92%). It is interesting that these countries are also among the eight Member States in which social partner agreements cover almost 100% of the long-term care workforce, as documented in Eurofound’s recent report on the employment and working conditions of this sector. The Netherlands and Luxembourg are also exceptional in having collective agreements specifically covering the long-term care sector. In all other Member States, social services workers earn at least 11% below the national average. The difference vis-a-vis the national average is greatest in Bulgaria, where social services workers earn 62% of the national average hourly earnings, followed by Estonia and Italy – both 65%.

Table: Hourly earnings in social services (residential long-term care and non-residential care) and healthcare as a proportion of national earnings, EU Member States, Norway and the UK, 2018 (%)

 

Social services

Social services

Healthcare

Residential long-term care

Non-residential care

Bulgaria

62

62

62

112

Estonia

65

64

66

116

Italy

65

68

63

122

Spain

70

69

72

137

Latvia

71

60

83

125

Portugal

73

69

78

119

Ireland

74

70

76

114

France

74

79

69

94

Cyprus

75

55

94

116

Hungary

77

77

76

99

Lithuania

77

72

86

116

Belgium

78

84

73

101

Slovakia

78

75

95

107

Finland

79

82

76

104

Slovenia

79

76

88

114

Malta

80

80

80

135

Poland

81

86

76

101

Croatia

83

82

83

112

Germany

83

82

84

111

Denmark

84

86

83

103

Czechia

85

87

80

113

Sweden

86

86

85

107

Greece

89

86

90

98

Romania

89

95

78

179

Luxembourg

92

106

84

157

Austria

92

92

93

111

Netherlands

96

96

95

120

EU Member State average

79

79

80

116

 

Norway

104

89

95

84

United Kingdom

109

71

67

74

Notes: This is a 2018 update of the 2010 and 2014 data in Table 5 of Eurofound’s report Long-term care workforce: Employment and working conditions. The data apply to all employees (including apprentices). All amounts are presented as a proportion of the average wage in NACE Rev. 2 sectors, sections B–S (except Public administration and defence; compulsory social security). Social services correspond to NACE 87 (residential long-term care) and 88 (non-residential care); SES does not allow for a breakdown of data for 88.1 (non-residential long-term care) only.

Source: Eurofound analysis of SES extraction provided by Eurostat on 26 February 2021

Domestic care work – precarious and not captured by the data

Eurofound’s report showed that, on the whole, residential long-term care provides more job security than non-residential long-term care. In addition, earnings in residential long-term care are generally better than in non-residential care, but this seems to vary. In an increasing number of Member States, average earnings in non-residential care are higher than those in residential long-term care: this was the case for 9 Member States in 2010, 11 in 2014 and 15 in 2018.

However, it should be underlined that the Structure of Earnings Survey data in the table only include employees who work for larger care providers. This means that the data, for instance, exclude domestic long-term care workers employed by private households, who tend to have the worst working conditions. Long-term care workers also work more often on a part-time basis (42%) compared with workers in healthcare (26%) or all sectors together (19%). This implies that the unfavourable hourly earnings in the table translate into even more unfavourable monthly earnings. Part-time work is most common in non-residential long-term care (52%).

Eurofound’s report further compared wages in healthcare and in long-term care. This is of particular relevance for nurses, for whom healthcare tends to be a more attractive sector. The report showed that the favourable average earnings in healthcare compared to long-term care (see table), can mostly be explained by the overrepresentation of low-paid professions (carers, social carers, assistant nurses) in long-term care. However, it also identified countries where nurses with the same skills and experience would earn more in healthcare than in long-term care.

Wages not keeping pace with increased need for long-term care workers

Overall, the share of long-term care workers has increased considerably, rising by one-third in just one decade. This rapid increase is in sharp contrast to the persistently low wages paid to these workers. There is another constant factor: most long-term care workers are women (81%), with higher rates in long-term care jobs that provide direct care. The long-term care workforce is even more female dominated than that in healthcare (75%), but slightly less than that in childcare (and other social work activities where accommodation is not involved) where 84% of workers are women. This gender imbalance could be addressed if more men were attracted to the profession. In the short term, however, improving working conditions in long-term care would have an immediate positive impact on the situation of many women (particularly those with low levels of education and earning low levels of pay) and would help to address the issue of current and future shortages.

Image © dglimages/Adobe Stock

Forschungsarbeiten, die vor dem Austritt des Vereinigten Königreichs aus der Europäischen Union am 31. Januar 2020 durchgeführt und anschließend veröffentlicht wurden, können Angaben zu den 28 EU-Mitgliedstaaten enthalten. Nach diesem Datum werden nur noch die 27 EU-Mitgliedstaaten (EU-28 ohne das Vereinigte Königreich) in den Forschungsarbeiten berücksichtigt, sofern nichts anderes angegeben ist.

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