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UK hours and wages fare badly by European standards


Research by the Bradford and Bingley business The Marketplace shows UK workers working longer for less in real terms. Compared with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Britain’s workers are face the highest tax bill on relatively mediocre average hourly wages. Workers in Germany top the hourly wage rate, earning £10.42 per hour – over £1 more per hour than the British rate of £9.36. Even French workers receive £0.45 more than the Brits with an average hourly wage rate of £9.81.

Despite mediocre pay, British families work harder than those on the continent:
– The average British employee works 2087 hours a year. That’s 8.7 hours a day – a whole hour more than the Italians
– Brits also have less holiday. French families enjoy 47 public and annual holidays a year – whereas, on average, we have a measly 28 days
– British households have the second highest number of workers per family with 1.10 per household

Hard work does give British households a disposable income of £24,407 – slightly higher than our European neighbours. However, higher prices in Britain mean we don’t benefit from increased spending power. When making a like-for-like comparison, the Spanish have almost £2,000 more to spend than the Brits each year. Yet they work less than we do.

Cost of living in France, Germany, Italy and Spain compared to UK (2001)
France Germany Spain Italy
OECD measure (2000)7% lower 8% lower 26% lower 23% lower
Big Mac Index 13% lower 19% lower 27% lower 31% lower

So it comes as no surprise that our European friends save more than we do. The French save three times more than the British. Ian Darby of the Marketplace said: “Whilst Britain is the hardest working nation, we’re the underdogs in terms of getting value-for-money. With middle-of-the-road salaries, we suffer the double whammy of steep taxes and high prices. We may have higher disposable incomes, but our money doesn’t go nearly as far as it does on the continent.”

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