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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
British workers 'losing out'
Stressed man
UK workers: Higher incomes, but lower standard of living
British people work long hours, pay high taxes but have a lower standard of living than workers in other European countries, according to a new survey.

Disposable income per household
UK: 24,407
France: 22,668
Germany: 22,665
Spain: 19,411
Italy: 17,051
Source: CEBR

The study, carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) for The MarketPlace at Bradford & Bingley, compared taxation and working conditions in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

It found that families in the UK have on average more disposable income, with 24,407 a year to spend.

But because Britons work longer hours, have a higher cost of living and fewer holidays a year, people in the UK are actually worse off.

And it found that 32% of British workers' gross income was lost in tax and social security contributions, second only to Germany, where families lose 33% of their total household income.

Tax freedom

Ian Darby, managing director of the MarketPlace, said: "It takes a UK household from 1 January to 15 April to pay their gross income tax bill - so-called "tax freedom" day."

How much are we saving?*
UK: 5%
France: 15.8%
Germany: 15.1%
Spain: 11.6%
Italy: 10.2%
*Savings as a % of disposable income. Source: CEBR

"In France, households have fulfilled their tax obligation almost four weeks earlier on 22 March."

The research found that UK families have higher net incomes on average than in Italy, France, Germany or Spain.

But the cost of living is the most expensive. For example, if a British family moved to Spain they would on average save up to 26% on their weekly shopping bill.

In other European countries, the cost of living is also much cheaper. According to the survey it is up to 31% lower in Italy, 13% lower in France and 19% lower in Germany.

But the government disagrees fervently with the survey's findings.

"As far as we can see, these figures are wrong," a spokeswoman for the Treasury said.

"They bear no relation to the figures provided by the OECD, the recognised authoritative body on this subject.

"In fact, the OECD's most recent figures show that a worker on average earnings in the UK pays a significantly lower percentage of their wages - 23% - in income tax and employee contributions, compared to 41.3% in Germany, 27.8% in France and 28.2% in Italy."

Too much work?

Workers in continental Europe also benefit from working less hours and getting more bank holidays.

The average working day in the UK is 8.7 hours long, but the study found that that average Italian works one hour less each day.

And outside the UK, workers get many more days of holiday.

In the UK, the average number of days holiday including bank holidays is 28 days a year.

But in France, workers get 47 days a year, in Germany 41 days a year, in Spain 46 days a year and in Italy 44 days a year.

Depressing outlook

Higher consumer prices in Britain mean that there is little benefit from the higher average earnings received in the UK.

On average, the survey concludes, the Spanish have almost 2,000 more to spend than Britons each year.

And this means that Britons are not able to save as much as their continental cousins.

On average British families save only 5% of their disposable income, compared to 15.8% in France and 15.1% in Germany.

See also:

20 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Tax 'ball and chain' holds Europe back
25 Jan 01 | Business
High cost of UK life
03 Jan 02 | Business
Europe's economic adventure
10 Mar 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Europe's 'filthiest city'
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