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Undeclared work: survey reveals widespread problem

24/03/2014 Undeclared work: survey reveals widespread problem

Around one in ten Europeans (11%) admits that they have bought goods or services involving undeclared work in the previous year, while 4% concede that they have themselves received undeclared pay in return for work. Furthermore, one in 30 (3%) was paid partly in cash by his or her employer ("envelope wages").

These are some of the findings of a Eurobarometer survey which shows that undeclared work continues to be widespread in Europe, though the extent and perception of the problem vary from country to country.

Main findings

The survey, carried out in 28 EU countries, shows that:

  • 11% of respondents admit that they have bought goods or services involving undeclared work in the previous year, while 4% admit to have carried out undeclared paid activities
  • 60% indicate lower prices as the main reason for purchasing undeclared goods or services, and 22% mention doing favours to friends
  • 50% mention the benefits to both parties as the main reasons for working on an undeclared basis, 21% mention the difficulty to find a regular job, 16% the perception of taxes being too high, and 15% the absence of other income. Southern Europeans are particularly likely to mention difficulty finding a regular job (41%) or having no other source of income (26%)
  • Europeans spend a median yearly amount of €200 on undeclared goods or services, while the median yearly amount earned by those carrying out undeclared work is €300
  • home repairs and renovations (29%), car repairs (22%), home cleaning (15%) and food (12%) are the most demanded undeclared goods or services
  • Europeans mostly carry out undeclared work in home repairs and renovations (19%), gardening (14%), cleaning (13%) and babysitting (12%).
  • Latvia, The Netherlands and Estonia have the highest proportion of respondents providing undeclared work (11%). However, there are important national differences in attitudes and perceptions of what constitutes undeclared work as well as in the nature and volume of the services involved.
  • 3% of respondents say they receive part of their pay "cash in hand", a practice more likely in smaller companies. The proportion of annual income received as envelope wages is highest in Southern Europe (69%), followed by Eastern and Central Europe (29%), whereas continental and Nordic countries register lower levels (17% and 7% respectively).

Next steps

In April 2014, the Commission is due to propose the creation of a European Platform on the prevention and deterrence of undeclared work, which would bring together Member States' different enforcement bodies, such as labour inspectorates, social security, tax and migration authorities, and other stakeholders.

The Platform would enhance cooperation at EU level in order to prevent and deter undeclared work more efficiently and effectively.


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