Percentage of Irish workers earning minimum wage below European average, study finds

Percentage of Irish workers earning minimum wage below European average, study finds

Just under 10 per cent of Irish workers earn minimum wage, which is below the European average of 10.5 per cent, according to data from the ESRI.

The figures, taken from 2017 and 2018, show Ireland has the second highest minimum wage among EU members states and the UK, but falls to seventh when differences in the cost of living are taken into account.

Luxembourg minimum wage places them first in both consideration, while Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and France all ahead of Ireland when cost of living is considered.

The number of employees earning minimum was much higher in a number of EU countries, with Portugal recording the highest rate (16 per cent), while Belgium had the lowest rate (2 per cent).

The ESRI report, titled 'A comparative assessment of minimum wage employment in Europe', found that being young, having low levels of education and being a non-national give workers a higher likelihood of earning the minimum wage.

The report notes that women are over-represented among minimum wage workers in some countries across Europe, including Germany, France and the UK, where they make up between 60-70 per cent of such workers, however, in Ireland, the gender divide was found to be roughly equal.


Approximately 43 per cent of Irish workers earning minimum wage were employed in the accommodation, food, wholesale or retail sector, the highest rate of any other country examined in the report.

The study adds that as these sectors have felt the greatest impact from the pandemic, is it likely that Irish minimum wage workers have been disproportionately effected compared to their European counterparts.

Despite this, the report also found that the percentage of workers earning minimum wage who are at risk of poverty has fallen to its lowest level (11 per cent), giving Ireland the lowest such rate among all the countries included in the report.

Dr Paul Redmond, author of the report, said it is important to understand how minimum wages operate within labour markets.

"Our research shows that minimum wage workers in Ireland may be particularly exposed to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, as they are more likely to work in sectors such as accommodation, food, wholesale and retail. However, minimum wage employees in Ireland are less likely to be at risk of poverty compared to their European counterparts, as they are often located in high-income households."

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