How much does labour cost per hour in the EU?

In 2020, the average hourly labour cost in the EU was EUR 28.9. In 2020, the highest hourly labour costs among EU Member States, expressed in euros, were recorded in Luxembourg (EUR 47.7), Denmark (EUR 45.7), and Belgium (EUR 40.5), and the lowest in Bulgaria (EUR 6.6), Romania (EUR 8.2) and Hungary (EUR 9.8).

The highest levels recorded for Luxembourg were 7.3 times the lowest recorded for Bulgaria, while in 2016, the highest levels recorded for Denmark were 9.5 times the lowest (for Bulgaria).

This information comes from data on labour costs published by Eurostat today. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.

Disparities are significantly smaller when hourly labour costs are expressed in purchasing power standard (PPS), a measure that accounts for price differentials across countries. In PPS, hourly labour costs range from 11.9 in Bulgaria to 36.1 in Luxembourg, 3 times the former value.

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Methodological notes:

  • This article is based on the latest vintage of the 4-yearly Labour Cost Survey (LCS), with reference year 2020. This survey provides reference data on the level and structure of labour cost, hours worked, and hours paid for employees in the European Union (EU), as well as in EFTA, candidate, and potential candidate countries.
  • The data refer to full-time and part-time employees working in enterprises employing 10 employees or more, in all economic sectors except: agriculture, forestry and fishing (NACE Rev. 2 Section A) and public administration and defence; compulsory social security (NACE Rev. 2 Section O). The transmission of LCS data for NACE section O is voluntary.
  • Labour costs refer to the total expenditure borne by employers in order to employ staff. They cover wage and non-wage costs less subsidies. They do include vocational training costs or other expenditures such as recruitment costs, spending on working clothes, etc.
  • Hours worked are defined as the periods of time employees spent on direct and ancillary activities to produce goods and services, including normal periods of work, paid and unpaid overtime and time spent on preparation, maintaining, repairing, cleaning and writing reports associated with main work. They exclude periods of vacation and other public holidays, sick leave and other types of absence which employees are paid for.
  • Hourly labour costs are defined as the total labour costs divided by the number of hours worked by employees.