It is not part of French culture to talk about money. There might be some remains of the catholic culture where it is taboo to talk about money. “We do not show our payslip to anyone, and we do not tell how much we make”.

As says Anne-Marie Berthier in her studies of the Influence of Catholicism in French Contemporary mentalities. Catholicism is a religion “to help the poor” and where getting rich is not well seen. Even though France is now an atheist country, its Catholics roots left some traces. Knowing the France minimum wage and the median salary will hep you positioning you on the salary scale to negotiate your salary.

 

Know the France salaries in your area of expertise

 

Saying this, it doesn’t mean French people do not get prepared to talk about salary expectations during a job interview or that they don’t negotiate a pay rise every year or so.

The job market is different from what you may be used to and the salaries vary greatly depending on the industries and the job position. It is therefore important to do some research based on your specific situation, experience and industry before you go to your first job interview. You can check recruitment agencies analyses such as Hays or Micheal Page, for example

I will now address the French minimum salary and also the average salary as it helps to get a better idea of general incomes in France for every industry.

 

France minimum wage

As it is the case in many other countries, France has a legal minimum wage. It is reevaluated annually in line with the inflation and also takes somehow into account the salaries general evolution.

The minimum wage or SMIC as we call it in France is 10,15€ gross per hour which would mean 1185,35€ net/month for a full-time job. This is the amount after social charges but before income taxes.

 

Gross SMIC 

Net* SMIC 

SMIC per hour
Per government decree

10,15 €

7,82 €

SMIC per day
Based on 7h worked per day

71,05 €

54,71 €

SMIC per month
Based on 35h worked per week or 151,67h per month

1 539,42 €

1 185,35 €

*Net before income taxes

 

So when you consider the cost of the fix charges in France such as the rent, you quickly understand that living on a SMIC is tough even though other financial help may be available. According to the French National statistics entity (INSEE), about 10% of the population in France earn 1247€ net per month or less.

It also helps to compare the French situation with other countries taking into account the purchasing power standards. The European statistics entity, Eurostat, says France is in the first third for the purchasing power standard with a minimum wage in Europe.

 

France average income and median salary

The difference between the average and the median salary

An employee working full time in France makes in an average income of  2,340€ net per month (based on INSEE data for 2017). This number is not so meaningful as the top salaries impact the average.

 

France minimum wage and median income

Half of the employees in France earn less than 1845€ net/month, the median salary.

It is considered that the 30% lowest salaries, earning under 1534€ net per month, represent the under-qualified employees (often women), working in the area of services or workers.

The middle class in France earns between 1500€ and 2800€ net per month if we take 50% of the population earning over 1534€ net per month.

The top 8% earns from 4000€ net per month and the top 1% starts from 8700€ net per month.

 

Daily, weekly (wage), monthly (salary)

Salary in France is usually expressed monthly or annually. The employers only use the gross amounts. The hourly rate can also sometimes be mentioned for some type of position.

 

salaries in France
Photo by Fabian Blank

Gross salary versus net salary

The income tax withholding in France

Defining the net salary can be a bit complex in France.

First, the concept of net amount differs between France other countries as the income tax withholding has just been implemented last year only. Therefore, until last year for a French person, the net amount received on the bank account every month was before paying income taxes. The difference between the gross amount and the net before income tax is about 22% deduction for the social charges for the employee.

Also, this percentage will vary depending on whether the employee has an executive work contract (statut cadres) or an employee position (statut non-cadre) or is self-employed (indépendant).

 

The difference between social contributions and income tax

I realised that many expats don’t necessarily make the difference between social contributions and the income tax. This is certainly because both social charges and income taxes have been deduced on payroll without necessarily specifying the detail as it would be on a French payslip.

Don’t get me wrong, there are very few French people that get into the detail of their payslip and understand everything. We find it very complex too!

In France, social security contributions, as per its name are financing the social security system (including, for example, maternity leave, healthcare, pensions, unemployment benefits). These are pre-assigned amounts for specific funds.

Whereas the income tax budget is managed by the government and its spending vary on government politics a lot.

 

I hope this information helped you make sense of the French salary system as I have always found it very different from the other countries I have worked in such as Spain or the UK.

 

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France minimum wage and average salary
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