Graph showing average Polish monthly salary is outdated

factcheck-visual (13)

Author(s): Natalia Sawka, AFP Poland

A graph comparing the average Polish salary to earnings in other European countries has clocked over a thousand shares on Facebook in February 2022. It shows Poland at the tail end of a list of 23 states, led by Norway, Denmark and Luxembourg. However, this isn’t true. The graph is ten years old and since then, salaries for both Poles and Europeans have evolved.

The graph claiming to show current gross monthly earnings in various European countries was published on Facebook on February 1, 2022.

“But in other countries, those in power earn much less than our elite. The entire court of Elizabeth II costs taxpayers less than the office of the president and prime minister in our country. So what is there to talk about, they have made us poor and that’s all,” wrote one user in the comments below the post. “A land flowing with milk and honey,” wrote another.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post taken on 22.02.2022

The graph suggests Norway (€4,757), Denmark (€4,637) and Luxembourg (€4,274) have the highest monthly salaries in Europe. In contrast, Portugal (€1,030), the Czech Republic (€1,027), and Poland (€814) have the lowest.

However, the information presented in the graph is outdated. Thanks to Google’s reverse search tool, we were able to establish the graph had already been posted online in 2012.

According to Poland’s ZUS state social insurance system, average monthly salaries in Poland tallied at PLN 3,521.67 in 2012, or around €842. The exchange rate was  4.18 at the time, according to the National Bank of Poland.

Demagog, a fact-checking website in Poland, found that the graph was published in late May 2012 by the now-defunct website niewygodne.info.pl. As we read in the archived article, the author’s source was a selection of data published “between 2009 and 2012 by the statistical offices of individual countries and the EU’s Eurostat” that was quoted from information contained in Wikipedia.

Screenshot from archived website niewygodne.info.pl taken on February 22 2022

Poland’s average salary

Poland’s GUS main state statistics office reported on February 9, 2022, that “the average salary in the national economy in 2021 amounted to PLN 5,662.53, which would be EUR 1,247.07 using the February 22, 2022 exchange rate.

Data on average gross earnings are published every four years by Eurostat. At the moment, data for 2022 are not available. The latest statistics are from 2018. They show that in 2018, the average salary in Poland was 895 euros, which translates to PLN 4,063.35 using the exchange rate on 22 February 2022.

The graphic below shows a breakdown of monthly earnings in selected European countries by year.

Summary of monthly earnings in selected European countries by year, screenshot taken on 22 February 2022 (Eurostat)

The Swiss were Europe’s highest earners in 2018 raking in €5,042 euros per month, followed by Norwegians (€4,279) and Icelanders (€4,202). With €895 Poland ranked just behind Portugal (€933) and Latvia (€899). Lithuanians (€809), Hungarians (€801), and Romanians (€700) earned less.

“Over 2020-21, the cumulative consumer inflation index (CPI) amounted to around 8.7 percent, which, when confronted with the increase in average wages, means that wages in this period increased by around 6.5 percent in real terms,” Dr. Jarosław Wąsowicz, from the Department of Labour Market Analysis and Forecasting at the Economic University in Katowice, told AFP.

The expert adds that consumer price inflation in Poland in January 2022 is likely to tally at “over 9 percent”.

“When estimating real wages, it’s important to draw a comparison with the yearly average inflation rate. If CPI was 5.1 percent in 2021, we can expect it to be significantly higher on average in 2022. Perhaps it will even be around 8.5 percent, in which case real wages may decline. In such an unpredictable environment (pandemic, actions of the Russian Federation, decrease in the supply of goods, increase energy costs), it’s very difficult not to make a significant forecasting error,” explains Wąsowicz.

He also points to an OECD report showing Poland at the forefront of the European Union countries in terms of the ratio of the minimum wage to the average salary.

Wąsowicz: “In 2020, only France and Slovenia (49 percent), as well as Portugal and Spain (46 percent) had slightly higher ratios than Poland (45 percent). In turn, Polish data show that in 2020 the minimum wage (2,600 zloty) was more than half of the average salary (PLN 5,167.47). This ratio may have fallen slightly last year, as wages grew faster than the minimum wage.

Conclusion: the graph shared on social media illustrating the claim that Poles now earn an average of €814 was first published in 2012. Since then, the average salary in Poland has increased and, according to Poland’s Central Statistical Office (GUS), tallied at 5,662.53 zloty in 2021, which corresponds to(€1,247.07 using the February 22, 2022 exchange rate.

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