Australian Researchers’ Mobility Portal

Tuesday 13th November 2007

A study on researchers’ salaries carried out for the European Commission shows that the average salary for EU researchers is almost €23,000 less than the average in the USA, and also below average salaries in Australia, India and Japan. The study also notes the huge variations within the European Research Area (from €9,800 in Bulgaria to €46,500 in Switzerland) and significant differences between male and female researchers, as much as 35% in some countries. The value given to experience and the different levels of starting salaries also show up great differences across the EU: a UK researcher can expect a significant increase in salary as his or her career progresses — maybe as much as 335% — while a Danish researcher will maybe see a 90% increase.

“If Europe is to be able to face the challenges of the future, then we need knowledge to move freely to where it can best be used, and that includes our researchers,” said European Science and Research Commissioner, Janez Potočnik. “This huge disparity of salaries within the EU certainly distorts free movement, and also contributes to our top people seeing better opportunities elsewhere in the world. While it’s not simple to isolate all the factors that lead to these differences, I would say that in some Member States, more attention needs to be given to the value society places on the people carrying out work vital to our future.”

The survey “Remunerations of Researchers in the Public and Private Commercial Sectors” was carried out online and considered a researcher as a person devoting at least 50% of their time to research activities. Almost 10,000 replies were collected from researchers at various stages of their careers, in the public and private commercial sectors across the EU25 and Associated Countries. This revealed their net (salary taken home) and gross (net plus social security cost for both employee and employer) salaries. The data were validated, analysed and the results compared to two different groups: other European professions, and researchers in Australia, China, India, Japan and the United States.

Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, the analysis reveals wide variations across countries. About half of countries present an average net remuneration in the €20,000 — €30,000 range (weighted according to purchasing power).

The difference between the remuneration of a female researcher and a male researcher is significant in most European countries. The difference is particularly marked (over 35%) in Estonia, Czech Republic, Israel and Portugal, while is considerably less (below 15%) in Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Malta and Norway.

Placing the EU on the global stage reveals how relatively unrewarded all of its researchers are. In 2006, the EU25 average gross salary for researchers was almost €23,000 less than that in the USA: around €40,000 compared to €63,000. Only Austria, The Netherlands and Luxembourg offer salaries similar to the level of those in the United States, as do Israel and Switzerland. Australia, India and Japan all have an average remuneration higher than the EU25, while of the countries used as comparison, only China is below the EU average.