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Minimum wage

The term ‘minimum wage’ refers to the regulatory restriction on the lowest rate payable by employers to workers. Statutory minimum wages are regulated by formal laws or statutes. Collectively agreed minimum wages are stipulated within collective agreements between trade unions and employers. The term ‘national minimum wages’ is used when countries have one (or more) basic rates covering workers nationwide. They can be either statutory or collectively agreed. 


Recent updates


This 2024 annual review of minimum wages provides a synopsis of minimum wage setting during 2023 in the EU27 and Norway. It reports in detail on the processes and outcomes...

26 June 2024
Research report

Key messages

  • National minimum wage rates for 2024 were substantially raised, resulting in an increase in minimum wages in real terms across most EU countries. The increase in minimum wages has reversed the losses of purchasing power that minimum wage workers experienced between 2021 and 2023 in many EU countries.
  • Inflation rates were the most common criterion for the setting of 2024 national minimum wage rates in the EU. Less frequently considered criteria included the development of gross domestic product and unemployment, employment or labour productivity levels and/or developments.
  • Women are overrepresented among minimum wage earners in nearly all Member States, irrespective of how minimum wage earners are defined.
  • National minimum wages have become fairer as compared to other workers’ wages since the beginning of the millennium, when comparing statutory minimum wages to the median wages of all workers. The practice of linking minimum wages to a percentage of average or median wages, as suggested in the Minimum Wage Directive, continues in 2024, with an increasing number of EU countries adopting this practice.
  • Despite the upward trend, minimum wages in the majority of countries remain below 60% or even below 50% of median wages. This is particularly true in the central and eastern EU Member States, which were starting from very low relative levels at the beginning of the millennium and continue to have targets of around or below 50% in their minimum wage regulations.
  • Among all minimum wage earners, 23% reported difficulties in making ends meet in 2022 on average across EU Member States – 10 percentage points higher than for other workers. Also, 10% of minimum wage workers in the EU reported difficulties with keeping their homes adequately warm, compared to 6% of others. Eurofound’s EU PolicyWatch database also shows that governments have often referred to the statutory minimum wage when determining upper or lower thresholds for the level of income support benefits, such as those for short-time work.

Eurofound research

Eurofound provides regular updates on pay in the EU, including an annual study on how minimum wage rates have developed across the EU (as well as Norway), reviewing how national governments and social partners engage in setting new rates. It also looks at the concept of a living wage, aimed at guaranteeing workers and their families a decent level of living and social participation in response to the inadequacy of income for many working households reliant on existing national minimum wage rates.

Pay developments

The annual review on minimum wages for 2024 summarises how minimum wage rates were set during 2023. Eurofound published a set of minimum wage country profiles in May 2024 which provide detailed background information on how minimum wages are set and regulated in the EU and Norway. 

In an earlier study on pay in Europe in the 21st century, Eurofound explored the implications of a hypothetical scenario of a minimum wage coordinated at EU level and set at 60% of the median national wage.

Impact of COVID-19 for low-wage earners

COVID-19 is likely to impact the ongoing minimum wage debate, as many workers delivering essential services during the pandemic are at the bottom of the pay ladder, like workers in retail, food-supply chains or care roles. Others low-wage workers, like workers in the accommodation and food sector, or in leisure and entertainment services, were the first affected by unemployment during the pandemic. It will be important to see how minimum wages can contribute to the policy measures governments and social partners are applying to cushion the economic and social impacts. Eurofound’s e-survey on Living, working and COVID-19 shows that nearly half of households in the EU are struggling to makes ends meet. Minimum wages could play a policy role in stabilising incomes. 

Minimum wage versus living wage

Most EU countries have a national minimum wage. A related but distinct concept is that of a living wage, which is a wage designed to secure a basic but acceptable standard of living for its earner (and, in some cases, household dependents). The living wage rate is based on a detailed, regularly updated costing of the basic services and goods required for such a standard of living and is intended in part to reflect the inadequacy of prevailing statutory minima for that end. Living wage campaigns are generally voluntary and rely on coalitions of interest groups, trade unions and employers working together. These campaigns can take on an advocacy role (Ireland) as well as an accreditation role (UK) where organisations are formally accredited as living wage employers. In line with the fair wage provisions set out in the European Pillar of Social Rights, Eurofound research aims to provide policymakers with a practical guide to the living wage concept.

EU context

Most EU Member States have a statutory national minimum wage in place, although its level, adjustment mechanisms and coverage vary. Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden have minimum wages set within collective agreements, while Cyprus has statutory rates for different occupations.

The EU institutions jointly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights in November 2017, setting out the EU’s commitment to fair wages for workers. This includes ensuring adequate wages for workers to allow them and their families to have a decent standard of living, safeguarding the ability of the low-skilled and young workers to find employment, while also making work financially attractive. 

The European Commission of 2019–2024 put a reform initiative for an EU minimum wage on the agenda. The Commission’s vision for a strong social Europe prepared the way for an Action Plan to implement the Social Pillar. On 28 October 2020, the Commission put forward a proposal for an EU Directive on adequate minimum wages. This was followed by a political agreement between the European Parliament and the Member States on 7 June 2022. The Minimum Wages Directive was adopted in October 2022. It aims to improve standards of living with a view to achieving upward convergence and reducing in-work poverty, wage inequalities, and the gender pay gap. By November 2024, Member States have to transpose the directive into national law, and ensure that statutory minimum wages are adequate. 

Eurofound’s work on minimum wages links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on an economy that works for people. 


Key outputs


Eurofound publishes gross and nominal statutory minimum wages applicable in EU countries that have a statutory minimum wage.

Data Item

In this pilot project, Eurofound successfully established the feasibility of, and piloted, an EU-wide database of minimum pay rates contained in collective agreements related to low-paid workers. A conceptual and...

26 January 2024
Research report

This series reports on developments in minimum wage rates across the EU, including how they are set and how they have developed over time in nominal and real terms. The...

22 January 2020

Current and ongoing research

Minimum wage country profiles

Eurofound's minimum wage country profiles describe how minimum wages are regulated and set in countries of the European Union and Norway. They can be read as background information for Eurofound’s annual review of minimum wage setting series. 


Pilot project on minimum wages

Following a request from the European Parliament and decision from the European Commission, Eurofound is carrying out a pilot project on the 'Role of the minimum wage in establishing the Universal Labour Guarantee' in the EU, running from 2021 to 2023. The purpose of this pilot project is to provide data and research evidence that will feed into the monitoring of the European Commission’s initiative on adequate minimum wages. The main objectives will be examined in three distinct modules:

  • Module 1: Enforcement of minimum wages and compliance – providing a measurement of compliance with minimum wage regulation and discussing the methodological and policy issues related to this measurement.
  • Module 2: Database on minimum wage rates applicable to low-paid jobs – building a database on minimum wages in collective agreements
  • Module 3: Minimum tariffs in collective agreements – to verify the presence of minimum tariffs for self-employed in collective agreements.


European Industrial Relations Dictionary 

Eurofound expert(s)


Christine Aumayr-Pintar is a senior research manager in the Working Life unit at Eurofound. Her current research topics include minimum wages, collectively agreed wages and gender...

Senior research manager,
Working life research unit

Carlos Vacas Soriano is a research manager in the Employment unit at Eurofound. He works on topics related to wage and income inequalities, minimum wages, low pay, job quality...

Research manager,
Employment research unit
Publications results (29)

This 2024 annual review of minimum wages provides a synopsis of minimum wage setting during 2023 in the EU27 and Norway. It reports in detail on the processes and outcomes of setting the minimum wage rates for 2024 and beyond. It investigates the extent to which minimum wage earners were affected by

26 June 2024

In this pilot project, Eurofound successfully established the feasibility of, and piloted, an EU-wide database of minimum pay rates contained in collective agreements related to low-paid workers. A conceptual and measurement framework was devised, a total of 692 collective agreements – related to 24

26 January 2024

In the EU, non-compliance with statutory or negotiated minimum wages averages 6.93% or 1.3%, depending on the statistics used. The lowest national estimate is 0.01% in Belgium and the highest is 11.59% in Hungary.

27 November 2023

After a long period of price stability, inflation has made a remarkable comeback in the EU. While nominal wages picked up in 2021 and 2022, real wage growth has remained below inflation, affecting mainly low-income groups.

06 September 2023

The 2023 annual review of minimum wages was prepared in the context of unprecedented inflation across Europe. While this led to hefty increases in nominal wage rates in many countries, it was in many cases not enough to maintain workers’ purchasing power. Based on developments over the last decade,

29 June 2023

This report is carried out in the context of the three-year pilot project (2021–2023), ‘Role of the minimum wage in establishing the Universal Labour Guarantee’, mandated to Eurofound by the European Commission. Its focus is module 3 of the project, investigating minimum wages and other forms of pay

30 November 2022

After a cautious round of minimum wage setting for 2021, nominal rates rose significantly for 2022 as the negative consequences of the pandemic eased and economies and labour markets improved. In this context, 20 of the 21 EU Member States with statutory minimum wages raised their rates.

15 June 2022

This report summarises how minimum wage rates for 2021 were set during 2020 – the year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. It reviews the difficulties faced by national decision-makers and how they reacted to the challenges of the economic and social fall-out of the pandemic when making decisions regar

10 June 2021

This report, as part of an annual series on minimum wages, summarises the key developments during 2019 and early 2020 around the EU initiative on fair wages and puts the national debates on setting the rates for 2020 and beyond in this context. The report features how minimum wages were set and the

04 June 2020

This report sets out to describe what labour market segmentation is and why it is problematic for the labour market and society, as well as disadvantaged groups. It takes a broad view of the term to examine the situation that arises when the divergence in working conditions between different groups

02 December 2019

Online resources results (118)

Towards adequate minimum wages: Fairness and a decent standard of living

The adequacy of minimum wages established by the EU Minimum Wage Directive shall be assessed on two dimensions: fairness and the provision of a decent standard of living. It is up to the Member States to decide on their approaches to assessing the adequacy of minimum wage levels.

A look behind 80% bargaining coverage: What do collective agreements actually contain?

The EU Minimum Wage Directive aims to achieve a collective bargaining coverage of 80%. However, not all collective agreements regulate workers’ pay and in some cases pay rates remain outdated for too long.

Minimum wages 2024 – The tide is turning

While the prospects for minimum wage workers in early 2023 looked gloomy, the new year brings better news: national minimum wages were raised significantly in most countries.

Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound experts Christine Aumayr-Pintar and Carlos Vacas-Soriano about the adequacy of minimum wages in Europe as they stand at the moment, how the EU has sought to improve the situation of low-wage earners through a Directive on adequate minimum wages, and how widesprea

10 January 2024
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Minimum wages in Belgium

Minimum wages in Belgium exist at national and sectoral levels and are the outcome of collective bargaining. The national minimum wage typically lags behind sectoral minimum wages in Belgium, and policymakers have been concerned about the relative decrease in the national minimum wage compared with


Cyprus introduces a national statutory minimum wage

On 31 August 2022, a new decree on minimum wages was published in Cyprus after a long and arduous process of negotiations and social dialogue. The ministerial decree, which came into effect on 1 January 2023, established a national minimum wage in Cyprus for the first time, a groundbreaking and cont


Minimum wage debate in Italy

Italy has no minimum wage prescribed by law. Minimum wages are set through collective agreements at sectoral level, and the majority of employees in Italy are covered by a collective bargaining agreement in which wages are set. This article outlines the latest positions (2023) of the government and

Patterns and trends in social partner involvement in times of crises. 20-21 March 2023, EMCO meeting hosted by the Swedish Presidency, Stockholm. Presentation by Ricardo Rodriguez Contreras, Research Manager, Eurofound.

23 March 2023

Minimum wage hikes struggle to offset inflation

As the EU economy advanced its recovery following the pandemic, the high rate of inflation throughout 2022 meant that wage setting actors made their decisions under a cloud of uncertainty. While nominal increases in statutory minimum wages reached an all-time high, minimum wage workers in most count


Collective bargaining and social dialogue – Back to normal in 2021?

Two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, social dialogue continues to make a significant contribution to helping economies recover. Managing the crisis led many governments to rely on tripartite social dialogue to develop the policies that would mitigate the negative impact of the

Blogs results (10)

Minimum wages have risen significantly in 2022, as the EU Member States leave behind the cautious mood of the pandemic. However, rising inflation is eating up these wage increases, and only flexibility in the regular minimum wage setting processes may avoid generalised losses in purchasing power amo

15 June 2022

While the number of employees earning the minimum wage has increased across Europe over the last decade, spurred by significant minimum wage hikes, a clear gender divide emerges, with minimum wage earners more likely to be women. Minimum wage earners are also more likely to live in materially depriv

26 October 2021

Decision-makers approached minimum wage setting for 2021 cautiously due to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Despite this, nominal statutory minimum wages rose in most Member States and the UK, although at lower rates than in recent years.


In the context of the ongoing trend of a fall in collective bargaining coverage, and recent calls at EU level to promote collective bargaining coverage as an instrument to support fair and decent wages, new data from Eurofound’s fourth European Company Survey (ECS) show that two-thirds of workers (i

28 October 2020

Minimum wages, one of the cornerstone issues for Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission, were a hot topic in the EU at the beginning of the year. Then the COVID-19 public health crisis struck. Now, with an economic crisis and recession looming, the question is not only what impact the crisis has had on m

7 July 2020

The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is having drastic consequences for the world of work. In most European countries workers who are not delivering essential ‘frontline’ services are being asked to stay home. Unfortunately many are out of work, while many of those who are not are minimum-wage and low

1 April 2020

As one of their ‘100 days in office’ initiatives, the new European Commission intends to propose an initiative for an EU minimum wage. The aim is that by 2024 every worker in the EU should earn a fair and adequate wage, no matter where they live.

15 January 2020

The Socialist-led Spanish government that emerged last summer had, by the end of 2018, approved a hike in the statutory minimum wage. This was agreed with the left-wing Podemos party as part of an attempt to secure the parliamentary support needed for passing the proposed 2019 budget – although fail

17 July 2019

Wages grew and wage inequality fell in most EU countries in 2015. Germany is not one of the countries where wages rose most, but it did have the largest reduction of wage inequality. Our analysis shows that the German minimum wage policy introduced in 2015 strongly lifted the wages of the lowest-pai

14 June 2018

The growth in average (nominal) pay of employees has accelerated in recent years in EU countries after a slump following the economic crisis. Similar developments show up in data on collectively agreed wages. However, higher wage growth figures do not automatically mean that all employees benefit eq

27 February 2017
Data results (10)

A carefully selected panel of agreements with reliable time series of negotiated wage rates for 2015 to 2022 was created for 20 countries with sufficient data.

15 February 2024

The figure shows selected aggregate measures for the indicator 'negotiated basic monthly minimum wage rates'.

15 February 2024

The figure shows selected aggregate measures for the indicator 'negotiated basic monthly minimum wage rates'.

15 February 2024

The figure shows selected aggregate measures for the indicator 'negotiated basic monthly minimum wage rates'.

15 February 2024

Eurofound selected a sample of 692 agreements to be included with complete information (fully coded) in the database on minimum wage rates in collective agreements related to low-paid workers.

15 February 2024

The database on minimum wage rates in collective agreements related to low-paid workers is available as interactive dashboard.

14 February 2024

Eurofound publishes gross and nominal statutory minimum wages applicable in EU countries that have a statutory minimum wage.

25 January 2024
Reference period:

This database aims to provide researchers and policymakers with a set of country-level data on wages, working time and collective disputes.

20 September 2023

Eurofound publishes gross and nominal statutory minimum wages applicable in EU countries that have a statutory minimum wage.

29 June 2023
Reference period:
Data catalogue


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