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 Catholic roots left some traces. Knowing the France minimum wage and the median salary will help you position yourself on the salary scale to negotiate your salary and also will give you an idea of the cost of living in France.
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.
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 €10.25 gross per hour in 2021. This would mean €1,230.61 net/month for a full-time job. ***CAUTION*** This is the amount after social charges but before income taxes.
2021 Gross SMIC (in EUR)
2021 Net SMIC (in EUR)
SMIC per hour
Per government decree
SMIC per day
Based on 7h worked per day
SMIC per month
Based on 35h worked per week or 151,67h per month
*Net before income taxes
So when you consider the cost of the fixed 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 €1,247 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 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.
Half of the working population in France earns less than €1,845 net/month, the median salary.
It is considered that the 30% lowest salaries, earning under €1,534 net per month, represent the under-qualified employees (often women), working in the area of services or workers.
If we take 50% of the population earning over €1,534 net per month, we can say that the middle class in France earns between 1,500€ and 2,800€ net per month.
The top 8% earns from €4,000 net per month and the top 1% starts from €8,700 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.
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 in 2019 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 a 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 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.
- How much is the minimum wage in France?
The minimum wage is updated every year on 1st January. In 2021, the French minimum wage per hour is 10.25 € (Decree 2020 – 1598 du 16 December 2020). This represents €1,230.61 net/month for a full-time job. This is the amount after social charges but before income taxes.
- What is the average income in France?
A full-time employee in France makes an average income of €2,340 net per month. However, the median monthly salary is €1,845 net/month.
- Are the salaries low in France?
Considering the high tax and social contribution system paid by individuals but also by the companies, the net income is quite low compared to other countries.
However, in parallel, many people get access to financial subsidies such as the housing aid mentioned above or the family benefits.
- What is a high salary in France?
The middle class in France earns between € 1,500 and € 2,800 net per month. In Paris, a good salary is often considered to be between € 3,000 and € 4,999 per month to allow a good living in the capital.