What is it about?

This paper evaluates the prevalence in Europe of a so far little discussed wage practice in which employers pay their declared employees two wages, one declared and the other an undeclared (‘envelope’) wage. To evaluate the pervasiveness of envelope wages in Europe, a 2007 Eurobarometer survey on undeclared work is reported involving 26,659 face-to-face interviews which included a section on whether employees are paid an additional envelope wage by their declared employer

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Why is it important?

The finding is that 1 in 20 employees receive some of their wage from their employer as an undeclared ‘envelope wage’ and on average this amounts to two-fifths of their wage packet. This payment arrangement, however, is more prevalent in some businesses, places and populations than others. Smaller businesses and construction firms are more likely to pay envelope wages. Men, younger persons and the lower paid are more likely to receive such wages. And geographically, envelope wages are more common in East-Central Europe, where such payments are more likely to be for regular employment hours, whilst in Continental Europe and Nordic countries envelope wages are less common and received more for overtime or extra work conducted.


The first evaluation of the pervasiveness of envelope wages in Europe.

Professor Colin C Williams
University of Sheffield

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This page is a summary of: Evaluating the prevalence of “envelope wages” in Europe, Employee Relations, July 2009, Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/01425450910965450.
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