Big differences in the cost of the working hour between European countries

In the year 2017, the average cost of one hour of work in the European Union (EU) -excluding agriculture and public administration- was 26.8 euros, according to the latest data provided by Eurostat. In the case of the countries of the eurozone, the average cost was somewhat higher, standing at 30.3 euros.

However, what draws the most attention from the analysis carried out by Eurostat are the enormous differences that exist between the member countries of the EU. Thus, the lowest average labor cost was in Bulgaria (4.9 euros per hour), Romania (6.3 euros), Lithuania (8 euros), Latvia (8.1 euros), Hungary (9.1 euros) and Poland (9.4 euros). At the other extreme, in the high range, are Denmark (with an average cost per hour of work of 42.5 euros), Luxembourg (37.6 euros), Sweden (36.6 euros) and France (36 euros).

In Spain, the average cost stood at 21.2 euros last year, just over four euros below the EU average and 9.1 euros less than the average for the euro zone countries.

The average cost of one hour of work increased 2.3% in the EU and 1.9% in the eurozone in 2017. The most significant increases in th eurozone occurred in the three Baltic countries : Lithuania (+ 9%), Estonia (+ 7.4%) and Latvia (+ 7%). Outside the eurozone, in Romania the labor cost grew even more (+ 17.1%), and the increase in Bulgaria was also remarkable (+ 12%). The only European country where the labor cost was reduced was Finland, with a fall of 1.5%.

The following graphs show the ranking of the labor cost per hour in the different European countries in 2017 and the evolution that each country has followed in the period 2004-2017.

By sectors, the average labor cost in the industrial sector was 27.4 euros in the EU and 33.4 euros in the eurozone. In services, it was 26.6 and 29.3 euros respectively, while in the construction sector it stood at 23.7 euros in the EU and 26.7 euros in the eurozone.