Learn all about the minimum wage in France as well as the average salary you might expect to earn as an expat working in the country.
If you’re hoping to find a job in France or perhaps negotiate your salary, then it’s a good idea to learn more about how wages work in the country. You might also want to look into what collective agreements exist within your industry and ensure that your pay reflects the standard for your position and responsibilities.
To help you get a better understanding of the minimum wage in France and the average salary you might expect to earn as an expat, this article outlines the following information:
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The minimum wage in France
The minimum wage in France is known as the salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance (SMIC), and those who earn this salary are often referred to as “smicards”. The SMIC can include the basic employee salary, as well as benefits in kind and productivity bonuses. However, other factors such as the reimbursement of expenses, overtime, and other bonuses do not contribute towards it.
The SMIC was created in 1950 under the moniker SMIG and first indexed against the rise in commodity prices in 1952. Whenever prices grew by 5%, the government adjusted the minimum wage. However, in the 1980s, Mitterrand changed this principle to index minimum wage to inflation. As a result, the evolution of the SMIC was feeble in the 1990s. But thanks to new policies, it later grew by 30% between 1998 and 2005.
The current gross minimum wage in France in 2022 is €10.57 per hour which translates to a net hourly salary of €8.37. This places France among the group of European countries – together with Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany – that have a national monthly gross minimum wage of more than €1,500.
Having said that, 11.6 % of employees in France are paid less than 105% of the minimum wage. This is relatively high, coming after only Slovenia (15.2 %), Bulgaria (14.1 %), Romania (13.3 %), and Poland (12.1 %).
The minimum wage is revalued each year in France on 1 January. It is indexed to inflation for the 20% of households with the lowest incomes.
Exceptions and variations in the minimum wage in France
The SMIC applies to workers who are over the age of 18. However, apprentices and young employees who are below this age can legally receive anywhere between 80% and 100% of the SMIC. That said, young workers who are employed for more than six months in the same company must receive full minimum wage.
The SMIC does not apply to apprentices, who instead receive a salary determined as a percentage of the SMIC. The amount they will get varies depending on their age and their level within the training program that the apprenticeship covers.
For example, a 16-year-old in her first year of training is only legally entitled to 27% of the SMIC (or €432.84 per month), whereas a 24-year-old in his third year of apprenticeship should receive 78%, or around €1,250. Notably, anyone over the age of 25 must earn the national minimum wage during their whole apprenticeship period.
As an intern in France, you do not receive a salary but rather financial compensation which is known as gratification minimale or a minimum bonus. The legal minimum for this bonus is set at €3.90 per hour. Notably, public organizations cannot offer more than this sum to interns. Private organizations, on the other hand, may have a collective agreement that sets a higher sum. An online simulator allows employers to calculate the minimum amount due based on the intern’s actual hours of attendance.
Variations by sector
Depending on the sector of activity, collective agreements (conventions collectives), which are negotiated by trade unions, generally define an agreed minimum wage. These negotiated wages often reflect the position of the job within the company’s hierarchy. If the wage is higher than the state-defined SMIC, then this is the sum that the employee must receive.
The labor law website DicoTravail provides a summary of collective agreements by sector, along with free downloadable PDFs, so you can use this to check what rules apply to your own profession in France.
What to do if you’re not being paid the minimum wage
In France, employers can be fined €1,500 if they pay an employee less than the minimum wage. The employer may also have to pay damages: a sum intended to compensate the employee for the harm suffered. Furthermore, employees can receive back-pay for up to three years if they were underpaid. This period can cover up to five years if there is proof of discrimination.
If you believe that you should be getting paid more, you can reach out to your trade syndicate. However, if this is not possible, it is best to consult a labor lawyer (avocat en droit du travail) to find the best way to proceed. In France, the Conseil de prud’hommes (CPH) is the court responsible for settling workplace disputes.
The average salary in France
According to recent figures from the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), the average annual net salary in France in 2021 was €29,572, which works out to €2,464 per month. This declined slightly compared to 2020 (€29,652) but is still up on figures from five years previous (€26,903 in 2016).
That said, French salaries do not compare very well with the rest of western Europe. For instance, Paris only comes in 56th place in a list of European cities that are classed by average net salaries. Other major French cities rank 51st (Antibes), 52nd (Montpellier), 58th (Toulouse), 60th (Lille), 61st (Nantes), 65th (Lyon), 68th (Marseille), and 72nd (Nice).
However, despite this, labor laws are generally very good in France, with working weeks set at 35 hours and workers regularly taking five weeks (or 30 working days) of holiday per year. Sick leave is also covered after the first three days of illness, with employees being paid a daily allowance that is equal to 50% of their basic daily wage.
The average salary by sector
Naturally, the average wage in France varies depending on the sector. For instance, public-sector jobs are not as well paid as private-sector jobs, even if they do provide greater job security. Indeed, management-level employees in the private sector can expect to earn average annual salaries of €48,903. Meanwhile, CEOs are the highest earners in the sector with average salaries of €64,875.
According to the Robert Half Salary Guide 2022, the average monthly net salaries in some of the best-paid sectors are as follows:
- Banking industry: €3,280
- Consulting: €3,041
- Engineering industry: €3,170
- Insurance industry: €3,280
- Legal and accounting professions: €3,300
- Pharmaceutical industry: €3,000
- Real estate industry: €3,100
The average salary by job level
Statistics from 2019 show that the average salaries by job level are as follows:
- Managers and CEOs: €4,230 per month
- Intermediate professions (technicians, salespeople, foremen, supervisors, etc.): €2,411 per month
- Low-level employees: €1,740 per month
- Manual workers: €1,830 per month
The average salary by region
Average salaries in France also vary by region. As recently as 2019, Ile-de-France, or the Paris region, topped the scoreboards. The following is data on average monthly wages per region:
- Ile-de-France (Paris region): €3,087 per month
- Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Nice, Cannes, Antibes, etc.): €2,347 per month
- Normandy: €2,226 per month
- Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (Lyon region): €2,376 per month
- Hauts-de-France (Lille region): €2,240 per month
Salary checker in France
You can use the Salary Data & Career Research Center for France to find out roughly what salary to expect to be paid according to your industry, position, degree, location, and years of experience.
The gender pay gap in France
According to Eurostat data, the gender pay gap in France was 15.8% in 2020, which was slightly above the EU average of 13%, but lower than in Germany (18.3%), Switzerland (18.4%), Austria (18.9%), Estonia (21.1%), and Latvia (22.3%). Similar to average salaries, the pay gap in France varies by sector. For instance, some of the highest disparities appear in the financial and insurance sectors, where pay gaps reach 30.8%, and in scientific and technological industries, where they are around 22.3%.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, France currently ranks well, at 16th out of 156 countries. That said, it still has significant progress to make. The report also highlights the persistent ‘glass ceiling’ which results in women holding only 34.6% of senior roles.
Salaries and wages for expats in France
According to the Interior Ministry, more than one in ten people working in France are immigrants or expats (2021). Out of the 3,173,900 active foreigners in the country, the majority (2,416,000) come from outside the EU, and 758,000 are from the EU. Furthermore, non-EU residents (58.6%) are more likely to be professionally active compared to EU residents (48.4%).
However, low income and poverty disproportionately affect those born in Africa. A 2015 study by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) highlights the difference between income depending on country of birth. And compared to Europeans, African households in France earn 25% to 30% less.
- Service-Public.fr – the official website of the French government administration, with a developed section on working in France
- Interior Ministry – offers information for immigrants and expats in France
- Ministry of Labor – provides information on French labor law
- Welcome to France – a French government website for expats (in English) with information about employment and work permits
- Payscale – allows you to check average salaries in France by profession, industry, experience level, and location
- DicoTravail – provides information about French labor law and collective agreements