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Low-wage earners

Recent statistics from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, have revealed that one out of six employees (17%) in the EU27 was a low-wage earner in 2010.

This proportion varied significantly between Member States, with the highest percentages observed in Latvia (27.8%), and the lowest in Sweden (2.5%).

Low-wage earners are defined as those employees earning two thirds or less of the national median gross hourly earnings. Therefore, the thresholds that determine low-wage earners are relative and specific to each Member State.

There are large differences between men and women regarding the proportion of low-wage earners. In the EU27 in 2010, 21.2% of female employees were low-wage earners, compared with 13.3% of male employees.

In all Member States, except Bulgaria, there was a larger share of female employees who were low-wage earners than male.

The level of education plays an important role: the lower the level, the higher is the likelihood of being a low-wage earner. In the EU27 in 2010, 29.0% of employees with a low education level were low-wage earners, compared with 19.3% of those with a medium level and 5.8% of those with a high level.

The type of contract also has a significant impact. In the EU27 in 2010, 31.3% of employees with a contract of limited duration were low-wage earners, compared with 15.7% for those with an indefinite contract.

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