Fluctuating exchange rates complicate comparisons between minimum wage levels across Europe. Broadly speaking, the Pounds 4 per hour proposed by the Transport and General Workers Union in Britain equates roughly with the level paid on the continent, according to 1994 figures supplied by the Low Pay Unit.
France operates the SMIC, a statutory national hourly minimum wage, which is set at FF 39.98, (Pounds 3.92). Around 9 per cent of the French workforce receive the minimum rate.
Germany has no single, national minimum wage. A system of legally binding sectoral agreements covers about 90 per cent of the workforce and is usually negotiated annually. Hourly rates are approximately Pounds 5.00 for workers in the metalworking industries, and as high as Pounds 5.60 for bank workers.
The Netherlands has a statutory minimum wage, (Pounds 3.71 at current exchange rates). Roughly 5 per cent of the workforce receive wages equal to the minimum value.
Belgium's minimum wage structure is determined by legally binding central agreement. The rate applies in the absence of industry or company agreement, and covers 4 per cent of the national workforce. The evel for over-21s converts to Pounds 4.01 per hour. In the United States the level is set by the federal government. Currently it is Pounds 2.53 per hour.