Due to the low salaries they receive, almost three million people in the European Union cannot afford to heat their homes, even though they work. This shows an analysis of Eurostat data from the European Trade Union Institute, published by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

The analysis is published on the website of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria / CITUB /. It is made against the backdrop of rising energy prices in Europe.

At the beginning of autumn and on the eve of winter, 15 percent of the working poor in Europe will not be able to turn on heating. This percentage is equal to 2,713,578 people across Europe, warn the ETUC.

The situation has worsened in a dozen EU member states over the past decade, and now the sharp rise in electricity prices in Europe risks leading to even more energy poverty, the ETUC predicts.

The data show that Bulgaria is in second place on the list with the highest percentage of working poor who cannot afford to heat. The ranking is as follows: Cyprus – 45.6 percent (14,398 workers), Bulgaria – 42.8 percent (129,990 workers), Lithuania – 34.5 percent (35,371 workers), Portugal – 30.6 percent (157,612 employees), Greece – 28.7 percent (122,323 employees), Italy – 26.1 percent (833,311 employees). The largest percentage increase in the working poor who cannot afford heating has been in Croatia since 2009 with a growth of 16.5 percent, followed by Cyprus – 10 percent, Lithuania – 7.9 percent, Slovakia – 7.8 percent, Spain – 6 percent.

Rising energy prices make EU decisive action on wages even more urgent, the ETUC said. The Confederation calls on the European Parliament to protect workers from energy poverty by introducing a “threshold of dignity” in the draft directive on minimum wages. It will ensure that statutory minimum wages ensure a decent standard of living. For this purpose, they may not be less than 60 percent of the national median gross salary and 50 percent of the national average gross salary.

If this double threshold is introduced, it will allow wages to rise to more than 24 million people in the EU.

In the current form of the draft EU directive, this double threshold does not appear and so the situation will not change. Amendments are needed to introduce it and to increase the number of workers covered by collective bargaining across Europe, which is the best way to achieve real fair pay, the ETUC said.

“There are millions of low-paid workers in Europe who have to choose between heating their homes, feeding their families well, or paying rent, even though they work full time. This is unacceptable and rejects the whole point of the minimum wage. Unfortunately, rising energy prices mean that this winter even more people are facing the need to return from a long working day or night in a cold home and their children to write their homework in the cold, commented ETK Deputy Secretary-General Esther Lynch.

Nearly 28 percent of the population in Bulgaria is limited to heating their homes

Rositsa Makelova, the scientific secretary at the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research / CITUB / at CITUB, told BTA in July that those who use central heating and hot water will experience the most serious difficulties at the beginning of the heating season.

She cites statistics that in 2020, nearly 28 percent of the population is limited to heating their homes. At the same time, 24 percent of Bulgarians have difficulty paying their housing costs on time.

According to the data from the regular surveys of ISSI on the subsistence level, six out of 10 households in the country still do not have the necessary funds to ensure a normal standard of living. This share of households is expected to remain or slightly increase.

In 2020, over 1.6 million Bulgarians, or 23.8 percent of the population, are below the poverty line.

The households in which there is a serious concentration of the poor and which are expected to bear the hardest any jump in prices are single-member households with a person over the age of 65, households with three or more children, single-member households, and single-parent households with dependent children.

The concentration of the poor population varies in different areas of the country. The people from the districts of Burgas, Montana, Silistra, Sliven, Stara Zagora, Smolyan will bear the new prices the hardest.

The data show that in 2020 the share of the poor among the employed in the age group 18-64 increased compared to the previous year by 0.7 percentage points to 9.7 percent, and the risk of falling into poverty is four times higher for part-time works – higher than that of full-time employees.

In Bulgaria at this stage, the receipt of income from employment cannot be considered as a guarantor for getting out of the poverty trap.

CITUB insists that the minimum wage next year be at least BGN 760

The memorandum of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria on the socio-economic development of Bulgaria 2021-2025 contains a request for accelerated growth of salaries – by 12.5 percent on average annually, with the minimum wage increasing by 17.5 percent on average. For 2022, this means a minimum wage of BGN 764 and an average salary of BGN 1,729.

The union will insist that this be set in the budget for 2022.