What is it about?

The aim of this paper is to evaluate the prevalence in the 27 member states of the European Union of a little discussed illicit wage arrangement in which formal employees are paid two wages by their formal employers – an official declared salary and an additional undeclared wage, thus allowing employers to evade their full social insurance and tax liabilities.

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Why is it important?

Reporting the results of a 2007 Eurobarometer survey involving 26,659 face-to-face interviews, the finding is that one in 18 formal employees received such an envelope wage from their formal employer and that envelope wage payments are more prevalent in member states with lower (rather than higher) levels of state intervention. The tentative conclusion is that illicit envelope wage payments are a product of under-regulation, rather than over-regulation, and that further research is now required to test the validity analysis of this thesis in other global regions.


Examines the illegal employer practice of paying envelope wages to evade tax and social insurance contributions.

Professor Colin C Williams
University of Sheffield

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This page is a summary of: Explaining employers' illicit envelope wage payments in the EU-27: a product of over-regulation or under-regulation?, Business Ethics A European Review, May 2013, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/beer.12022.
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