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Buying power of UK salaries remains competitive in Europe despite Brexit uncertainty

The median salary for entry-level professionals in Switzerland is the highest in Europe at £53,024, significantly higher than the UK equivalent of £22,242

Total Rewards|Talent
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February 14, 2019

Entry-level professionals in the UK earn a gross base salary of £22,242, which ranks only as the 13th highest among the top 21 European economies.

LONDON, Thursday 14 February 2019 — Entry-level professionals in the UK earn a gross base salary of £22,242, which ranks only as the 13th highest among the top 21 European economies, according to Willis Towers Watson’s latest Global 50 Remuneration Planning Report.

The report also examines the tax burden in each country, as well as the cost of living, to establish how much buying power employees get from their pay. This measure gives a ‘purchasing power’ comparison between different countries and an indication of what an employee’s net income will provide within their country of residence.

When this is taken into account, salaries for UK employees look more competitive as lower taxes and cheaper living costs make the country more affordable than many of its European neighbours. Once adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) to account for taxes and living costs, the wage of a typical entry level professional in the UK becomes £22,165, which sees the country climb five places to 8th highest in Europe, surpassing Norway, Denmark, Sweden and France.

Middle managers enjoy similar relative strength in their pay levels. The typical middle manager in the UK earns £58,833 gross a year, putting them in 10th spot in Europe, and that ranking lifts to sixth place and £42,690 on a PPP-adjusted basis. Only middle management staff in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Ireland enjoy greater buying power than their counterparts in the UK.

Hazel Rees, GB Leader for Willis Towers Watson’s Rewards Line of Business, said: “The UK’s improved performance in the rankings, when purchasing power is taken into account, demonstrates the positive impact of a lower tax and cost-of-living burden on cash compensation in the UK compared to much of Continental Europe. This approach is also a driver behind some common differences in reward design practised in the UK versus the rest of Europe, such as the use of car allowances instead of grants and the comparatively lighter use of voluntary fringe benefits.

“If UK companies are to stay competitive, however, available resources need to be better allocated in order to attract, motivate and retain their best employees as market conditions create increased competition for talent. While salary remains the main consideration for UK workers when deciding to join or stay with a company, our own research shows that employers continue to fall short in how they deliver pay programmes, including base pay and bonuses.”

Switzerland was the country with the highest salaries across all levels, with base salaries of £53,024 for entry level professionals and £97,929 for middle management roles. Despite wages being substantially adjusted downward when taxes and the cost-of-living are factored in, Swiss workers still have higher buying power than nearly all other Europeans, at £35,069 for entry level staff and £57,522 for middle managers.

Notes to Editors

Median gross base salary (figures in GPB)
Entry Level Rank Middle Manager Rank
Switzerland 53,024 1 97,929 1
Luxembourg 37,751 2 75,501 2
Denmark 36,761 3 73,524 3
Norway 36,178 4 63,217 9
Germany 36,151 5 72,352 4
Austria 32,601 6 70,873 5
Belgium 32,386 7 68,604 6
Netherlands 29,215 8 67,440 7
Finland 28,341 9 53,424 12
Sweden 26,642 10 51,597 15
Ireland 26,369 11 63,855 8
France 25,457 12 57,026 11
United Kingdom 22,242 13 58,833 10
Italy 22,074 14 53,298 13
Spain 20,300 15 52,349 14
Slovenia 18,014 16 51,099 16
Greece 15,823 17 50,797 17
Portugal 13,622 18 39,013 18
Czech Republic 10,821 19 34,379 19
Slovakia 10,404 20 31,822 21
Poland 10,388 21 30,858 20
Median relative buying power (figures in GPB)
Entry Level Rank Middle Manager Rank
Luxembourg 35,270 1 57,522 2
Switzerland 35,069 2 58,483 1
Germany 28,104 3 49,297 3
Belgium 24,870 4 38,999 10
Ireland 24,850 5 43,373 5
Austria 24,638 6 44,656 4
Netherlands 22,958 7 40,098 9
United Kingdom 22,165 8 42,690 6
Norway 21,149 9 33,030 13
Denmark 21,063 10 35,204 11
Sweden 20,146 11 31,715 14
France 20,105 12 40,951 7
Spain 18,554 13 40,243 8
Finland 18,150 14 28,790 19
Italy 15,597 15 29,625 17
Slovenia 15,539 16 33,459 12
Portugal 12,752 17 28,971 18
Greece 12,658 18 28,362 20
Czech Republic 11,066 19 30,035 16
Poland 10,833 20 31,350 15
Slovakia 9,805 21 26,150 21

Source: Willis Towers Watson Global 50 Report

The Global 50 Remuneration Planning Report

The Willis Towers Watson Global 50 Remuneration Planning Report is designed for multinationals that need reliable and consistent compensation, benefit and economic information. It contains the latest data on remuneration practices in 60 major economies worldwide. The 2018-2019 report is available to purchase in full.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for gth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has over 40,000 employees serving in more than 140 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimise benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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