Published on 13th April 2023
Ensuring adequate and fair wages is an important element of the political agenda, especially in the context of the rising living costs since 2021. Based on the latest European Commission analysis, wage growth has been moderate until the end of 2022, leading to lower levels of purchasing power. This fall in real wages can lead to social risks, particularly for low-wage earners, and has prompted renewed discussion on the living wage in some markets and an increase in the statutory minimum wage in others.
To inform the current debates, the World Employment Confederation-Europe has compiled some evidence on the efforts made by the agency work sector in Europe to ensure fair and decent work. It shows that the agency work sector is offering adequate and fair wages and is ensuring social protection. This includes in all EU Member States the principle of equal pay (covering remuneration), combined with the principle of equal treatment (thus including basic employment and working conditions). In 10 European countries, Member States have given social partners the option to settle pay and working conditions via collective labour agreements, while these collective labour agreements need to ensure an overall level of protection for agency workers.
In several European countries, complementary elements of benefits and remuneration are established based on bipartite funds, including end-of-the-year bonuses, training entitlements, complementary health insurance and sectoral pension funds.
Adequate and fair wages depend on the level of pay for the workers, but also on the number of hours worked and the personal situation of the worker. Thus, elements such as a worker being a student (and working only to gain additional income) and caring responsibilities need to be considered to determine the adequacy of remunerations.
The positive role of diverse forms of work in providing access to work and therefore securing income should be better recognised. WEC-Europe advocates for setting appropriate and fair wages at the national level concerning statutory minimum wages, as well as through collective labour agreements and at the company level.