Nurse Salaries in Europe,Widening Disparities and Calls for Improvement

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Amid ongoing concerns about nurse remuneration, nurses in the UK and Italy are gearing up for further strikes in 2024, following a series of protests across Europe in 2023. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) notes that while healthcare expenditure surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, it dropped in 2022, reigniting debates about whether nurses are adequately compensated. The ‘Health at a Glance 2023’ report by the OECD highlights the impact of the pandemic and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis on nurse income, emphasizing the need for fair compensation to attract and retain nursing professionals.

Nurse Salaries Across Europe: A Look at 2021 Figures

Examining the nurse salary landscape in 2021, the OECD report reveals stark differences in gross annual salaries across European countries. From €10,461 in Turkey to €107,862 in Luxembourg, the range underscores significant nominal variations. Notably, seven European countries, excluding the EU’s “Big Four” and the UK, reported annual gross nurse salaries above €50,000. Germany led the pack with €46,829, followed by Spain, France, and Italy, while the UK recorded €41,023 (£35,276) in 2021.

Purchasing Power Disparities: A Closer Look at PPP-Based Salaries

Analyzing salaries through the lens of purchasing power parity (PPP), which accounts for price level differences, reveals a nuanced picture. In 2021, nurse PPP-based salaries ranged from €18,720 in Lithuania to €70,455 in Luxembourg. Despite adjustments, wide disparities persisted, with Central and Eastern European countries consistently reporting lower remuneration levels. The report suggests that these income differentials contribute to nurses migrating from lower-paying regions to more economically robust EU countries.

Nurse Salary-to-Average Wage Ratio: A Crucial Metric

The salary-to-average wage ratio serves as a key metric for understanding the relative economic standing of nurses in each country. While 15 European countries reported nurse salaries above average wages, the UK, Switzerland, Finland, and Latvia stood out as exceptions, where nurses earned less than the average worker. Notably, Czechia, Luxembourg, Greece, and Slovenia boasted a ratio of 1.5, indicating nurses received 50% more than the average wage.

Decadal Shifts and Real-Term Challenges for Nurse Salaries

The report traces the evolution of nurse salaries over the past decade, revealing noteworthy trends. In many Central and Eastern European countries, real-term increases between 2010 and 2019 narrowed the remuneration gap with other EU nations. However, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Finland, and the UK experienced declines. The Health Foundation’s report on long-term nurse pay in the UK highlights a 5% reduction in real terms between 2011 and 2021, despite a 13% nominal increase. The OECD underscores the role of one-off COVID-19 bonuses, emphasizing that these bonuses were often separate from regular wages, influencing overall compensation dynamics.

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