PARTS of the North-East are poorer than many areas in former communist countries in Eastern Europe, new figures show.
People living in County Durham and Tees Valley have a lower income than places in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, according to the Brussels statistics.
Large chunks of Greece also boast higher living standards than the North-East’s poorest sub-region – despite that country’s recent economic catastrophe.
And the figures also lay bare the extraordinary wealth of central London, where incomes are 4.5 times those in Tees Valley and County Durham.
Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield Labour MP, said the analysis was a stark reminder of just how far the region had to go to catch up, saying: “These are poor figures.
“There is a lot to do to raise the standard of living in the North-East. People face a cost of living crisis, which has only got worse over the last two or three years.
“However, we should remain part of the EU, because the North-East has benefited from a lot of inward investment, including from multinational companies like Nissan and Hitachi.”
The statistics, produced by Eurostat, an arm of the European Union, compare wealth across the EU using a measure known as “purchasing power standards” (PPS).
It takes into account the effect of prices on the cost of living, rather than simply measuring gross domestic product (GDP), or output per person.
They show that, in 2011, Tees Valley and County Durham, GDP per head on the PPS measure was £14,700 – or just 71 per cent of the EU average.
That was significantly lower than Northumberland Tyne and Wear (83) and North Yorkshire (89) and the third lowest figure in the UK, after Cornwall and West Wales (both 64).
But it was also lower than the Yugozapaden sub-region of Bulgaria (78) and two areas in Poland – Mazowieckie (107) and Dolnośląskie (74).
Four sub-regions of Greece enjoy a higher income and Bucureşti-Ilfov (122) – which takes in the capital of Romania – is far, far wealthier.
Meanwhile, two other sub-regions of the UK - North Eastern Scotland (159) and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (143) – are among the EU’s richest.
Separate figures, yesterday, also threw fresh doubt, on the Government’s claims that the region has enjoyed a jobs recovery, despite the flatlining economy, until recently.
Since the start of the recession five years ago, the number of self-employed people has leapt by 23,000 in the North-East and by 37,000 in Yorkshire.
Meanwhile, the number of traditional employee jobs has dropped by far more – by 91,000 in the North-East and by 64,000 in Yorkshire.
Worryingly, the average weekly income of someone in self-employment is 20 per cent lower than in 2008, earning them 40 per cent less than a typical employee.
Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, which carried out the study, said: “Self-employment is often a highly precarious existence.”