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Average low-wage worker left with just €300 after bare essentials

Research shows that housing and everyday expenses swallow up more than 1,000 euros monthly.

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Kuvituskuva. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Many low wage workers in Finland struggle to make ends meet after forking out money every month for mandatory expenses such as rent, utilities, food and insurance.

An Yle analysis of average earnings among the country’s lowest-paid professions found that single workers under the age of 45 are left with on average just 300 euros a month after setting aside money for housing and daily expenses.

Average living expenses around 1.1K

Yle compiled a list of some of the lowest-paid professions in municipal, state and private sectors, as well as their take-home pay, average monthly housing and daily expenses and average cash-in hand sums.

Data from the national number crunchers at Statistics Finland indicate that last year, average monthly before-tax earnings by municipal workshop employees were 1,727 euros. The wages used in the analysis represent net monthly earnings after taxes and other statutory payments.

The analysis is based on taxes paid in Tampere, where municipal taxes (19.75 percent) are close to the national average (19.88 percent). The calculations also include deductibles such as union membership dues and church fees.

Housing and daily expenses are based on 2018 figures from Helsinki University’s Centre for Consumer Society Research. The centre has calculated that a reference budget for a single low-income earner under the age of 45 is about 1,150 euros. The sum includes rent, food, phone and internet bills, clothing, healthcare fees, electricity and insurance. It does not include the cost of transportation.

Travel costs extra

Low wage earners living in a municipality where taxes are around the national average, are therefore left to manage with about 300 euros a month after paying their most important bills. However if they live in areas with higher municipal taxes such as Haapajärvi in Oulu, they’ll likely be left with around 270 euros monthly for discretionary spending.

The average low income earner will still have to spend from the remaining cash to pay to commute to and from work. For taxation purposes, employees must cover part of that cost themselves, while they can claim the rest in annual tax returns.

Currently workers must cover 750 euros (62.50 monthly) annually out of pocket and can only claim amounts in excess of that on their income tax return forms. This means that the average single low wage earner is left with around 240 euros in hand.

The table below shows average net monthly earnings for selected low-pay municipal, public and private sector jobs based on 2018 figures, as well as living expenses and cash left after footing essential bills.


Net pay/month €

Housing, daily costs €

Cash in hand €

Workshop employee

1455

1154

301

Recycling employee

1472

1154

318

Realty assistant

1496

1154

342

Seasonal worker

1528

1154

374

Park worker

1531

1154

377

Laundry worker

1556

1154

402

Museum assistant

1558

1154

404

Daycare assistant

1565

1154

411

Kitchen helper/cleaner

1586

1154

432

School assistant

1590

1154

436

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