BERLIN – Just a few days before Tuesday's general election, the US Department of Labor released new pay increases last week, the largest increase since the beginning of the year since 2009. Private workers today earn on average $ 27.30 per hour.

The Trump government has celebrated these figures as a watershed moment for the US economy, which has led to employment gains in recent years, but marginally improved wages. But the United States is not the only country where workers are better off. Wages have also risen in Europe.

However, it is somewhat more difficult to measure the extent to which wages have improved since the financial crisis. One reason for this is the phenomenon "13. Salary "in Europe. While most Americans receive 12 monthly salaries each year, many Europeans get 13 years. Similar regulations exist in Latin America and parts of Asia.

With falling US unemployment and rising wages, a 13th salary in the US does not seem to be as far-fetched as in previous years. But would it make sense?

Originally meant to get people to spend more money on gifts before Christmas, practice in Europe is now very different. In Germany, nine out of every ten workers receive a 13th salary every year on terms commonly agreed between unions and employers, according to figures released on Monday. While contractors benefit the least, gas or pharmaceutical professionals often receive additional bonuses that exceed their salaries in a normal month.

In some countries, including Austria, lower rates apply for payments from the 13th salary than for normal salaries. In other countries, there are deadlines for employers to transfer a certain rate or even rules for a 14th salary. However, the vast majority of European countries have given employers a lot of leeway to determine how much they pay to whom and to whom they pay extra, making the overall income less transparent.

The practice may seem strange to most Americans, but some European employees are far from knowing that they are entitled to extra money. The Government of Cyprus launched a campaign last year to inform workers about their right to a 13th salary. Non-compliance is a criminal offense in Cyprus with a maximum fine of $ 17,000 or six months in prison.

While the idea of ​​adding a 13th or 14th month salary may sound intriguing to many American employees, some critics insist that the United States is doing better. The additional payments are not normally included in the average salaries and can vary unpredictably from year to year, even if the wages themselves stop or grow faster.

Due to the strong connection with Christmas parties, the practice has also been politicized in some countries, for example in Austria, where right-wing extremist groups proposed the exclusion of Muslims in 2016.

More recently, far-right groups have been spreading unfounded rumors that refugees would receive close to $ 1,000 each before the Christmas celebrations – adding a political twist to the long-sought-after move to increase wages and domestic spending.

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