EUs poverty nightmare: Almost 30% of bloc’s population cannot afford week-long holiday

EU: Host quizzes Urmas Paet on European ’dissatisfaction’

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The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) discovered that 28 percent of people living in the bloc – equating to 35 million people – do not earn enough for an annual break. The figure rises to 60 percent for workers below the poverty line, it said.

Research also showed stark regional variations, with 89 percent of workers at risk of poverty in Greece unable to afford a break.

It was marginally lower for Romania (87 percent), Croatia (85 percent), Cyprus (79 percent) and Slovakia (76 percent), the ETUC said.

France, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria were also noted for having a high number of citizens in the bracket.

Within countries, disparities between rich and poor have also become starker, it said.

The difference in wealth between the poorest workers and the rest have “increased in 16 member states over the past decade”, it revealed.

ETUC deputy general secretary Esther Lynch said: “A holiday should not be a luxury for the few.

“While many workers are away enjoying time off with friends and family, millions are missing out because of low pay.

“The rise in holiday inequality shows how the benefits of economic growth in Europe over the last decade haven’t been shared fairly.

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“The EU adequate minimum wages directive needs to be strengthened to ensure that wages are never so low that they leave workers living in poverty and collective bargaining is made a routine part of employment to ensure genuinely fair wages for all.”

The trade union later tweeted: “Working together for good jobs, higher wages and a greener planet!

“Low income leaves at least 35 million unable to afford a holiday, our new research shows.

“The EU must set a threshold of decency for minimum wages and strengthen collective bargaining to ensure holidays aren’t just a luxury for the few next summer.”

After publishing its findings yesterday, the ETUC is now calling on Brussels to strengthen a European directive to improve low wages in the EU.

It wants a “decency threshold” introduced which would ensure that statutory minimum wages can never be lower than 60 percent of the median wage and 50 percent of the average wage in any member state.

Currently 17 EU member states have a statutory minimum wage below 60 percent of the national median wage.

If issued, the directive would provide binding rules for the 21 countries of the European Union which already have a minimum wage.

It would not however, create an EU minimum wage.

And it would not force countries that currently don’t have a minimum wage to introduce one.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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