Evaluating the Extent and Nature of ‘Envelope Wages’ in 27 European Countries

Posted: 13 Dec 2015

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Date Written: December 12, 2008


This paper reports the first cross-national evaluation of the prevalence of a little discussed wage arrangement where formal employers pay their formal employees two wages, one declared and the other an undeclared ‘envelope wage’. Analyzing the results of a 2007 survey conducted in 27 European Union member states, the finding is that some 5 per cent of employees in formal employment receive an additional undeclared wage from their formal employer which amounts on average to some two-fifths of their wage packet. However, this employment practice is found to be markedly more prevalent in East-Central European countries where some 11 per cent of formal employees receive an undeclared wage and this is more often paid for their regular employment hours, which is in stark contrast to Continental Europe and Nordic countries where such wages are less common and received mostly for overtime or extra work conducted. The paper concludes by discussing how this neglected but nevertheless significant practice might be tackled.

Keywords: undeclared work, informal economy, post-socialist societies, European Union, public policy

JEL Classification: H26, J46, K42, O17

Suggested Citation

Williams, Colin, Evaluating the Extent and Nature of ‘Envelope Wages’ in 27 European Countries (December 12, 2008). Post-Communist Economies, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2702753

Colin Williams (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - School of Management ( email )

15 Conduit Road
Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/management/staff/williams/index

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