Are engineers in Italy poorly paid?

In a few weeks, the sun will rise over Chicago for Nils Berger (name changed). Then the 34-year-old project manager for an automotive supplier no longer works in Germany, but in the USA. There the engineer will be in direct comparison with his American colleagues. Also in terms of salary.

Despite international integration, the payment of engineering salaries varies widely around the world: the further you move from the industrialized nations to the emerging or low-wage countries, the greater this gap becomes. These are still the rules of the game in the globalized world of work.

But what are the differences in the industrialized nations? After the British, American, Swiss and Canadian engineers, German engineers are among the best-paid in the world, even if salaries are not uniform and depend on factors such as industry, company size, qualifications and professional experience. "That fluctuates even with beginners. Graduates with a university degree earn between 34,000 and 42,000 euros annually, with a technical college degree between 33,000 and 39,000 euros," says Alexander von Preen, managing director of the Gummersbacher management consultancy Kienbaum, which advises European and international companies on remuneration.

According to calculations by the Association of German Engineers (VDI), experienced project managers receive an average of 58,000 euros, team leaders 60,000, department heads 66,000 and divisional managers 75,000 euros, with salaries in the construction industry (clerk 36,000 euros; department head 58,350 euros) being significantly lower than in vehicle construction or Chemical industry (clerk 46,600, department head 72,500 euros).

Austrian, French, Italian, Dutch and Scandinavian companies pay their engineers less than German companies, yet these engineers are among the most well-paid workers worldwide. But be careful: In order to be able to draw a meaningful comparison, you always have to look at the individual case: An engineer in Paris or London can earn very well, but a large part of his salary is spent on high rents and living costs.

Salaries in the basement

Quite different in Eastern Europe: There the salaries are in the basement. In Bulgaria, for example, engineers are paid 80 percent less than in Germany, 67 percent less in Slovakia, and wages in Hungary and the Czech Republic are also at the lower end of the table at around half the German salaries. The companies are now benefiting from the development work in the countries and the resulting increase in qualifications. Asia is also on the move.

China, for example, is mobilizing its workforce: 440,000 engineers leave the country's universities every year. Many of them deepen their expertise with Japanese and Western companies. The sums of money on the pay slips are still very low: Chinese engineers earn an average of 60 percent less than their German colleagues, in many cases only a fifth. No wonder that companies from all over the world are happy to relocate to the Middle Kingdom.

In India, too, the signs point to change. With a population of 1.3 billion, India is the second most populous country in the world after China and ahead of the United States. India and China together train 700,000 highly qualified engineers annually - ten times as many as in the USA and Europe. A career starter in India goes home with 200 to 300 euros a month. And even engineers with 30 years of professional experience get a maximum of 2000 euros per month. But that will soon change.

The upswing that India is currently experiencing will also drive salaries up: According to a forecast by the Kienbaum management consultancy, engineers in India should be able to expect an average of 15.4 percent more salaries this year.

Superlative salaries

There is also a steady upward trend down under: Australia, the sixth largest country in the world, and New Zealand have been doing well economically for years. Australia pays its engineers an average of 17 percent less than in Germany, whereby a distinction is made for engineers' salaries "between cash-salary and the entire salary package that includes benefits from the employer such as pension benefits or company cars," explains André Kaspura from the national engineering association "Engineers" Australia ".

Young professionals get the equivalent of 27,300 euros in cash and a salary package of 31,000 euros. The basic salary of engineers with the greatest responsibility is 84,600 euros and with allowances 108,000 euros.

That leaves the largest economy in the world: the USA. The land of superlatives also lives up to its reputation when it comes to engineering salaries. Technicians who have studied here have twelve percent more in their pockets than their colleagues in Germany. That will sweeten Nils Berger's departure from Germany.