As a foreigner negotiating your salary in France, it is sometimes difficult to position yourself without knowing the local labor market. Not knowing what is considered a good salary in France or what salary to aspire to, added to the pressure of getting a job to be able to get your “salarié” visa, can result in an unfavorable negotiation for you as an employee. This is what happened to me in my first job in France and it took me a while to level my salary to the market. So, armed with these years of experience I would like to share some tips that I hope can be useful if you came to this post in search of help or to prepare yourself when the time comes.
Compared to other countries where the subject is usually spoken more openly, in circles of friends or family, in France salaries are taboo. Hardly anyone talks about it, much less in the office. Personally, I think it is something very cultural about the relationship between the French and money throughout their history. In the United States, for example, having a lot of money is aspirational, someone who is successful in business has no problem showing his money and lifestyle, the famous American dream. In France, on the other hand, sometimes it seems to me that people who earn a lot of money feel “ashamed” and they don’t want anyone to know how much money they earn, well, and surely, they don’t want someone to go for a tax snitch 😊.
In addition to these cultural issues, there are other factors such as the disparity of salaries between men and women, the school or university in which you studied, since some companies have salary grids that vary according to the school, which make it difficult to have a clear idea of salaries in France.
Fortunately, there is the internet and things are becoming more transparent, there is more and more data on the internet and a little research will help you make an informed decision, having a clearer idea of the salary you can aspire to in France.
Gross and net salary
It is important to clarify that 99% of the time, salaries are negotiated on an annual basis. So, before you get excited when you see a salary in a job posting or a job offer, it is important to distinguish between gross and net since the difference is important.
France is one of the countries with one of the highest tax rates in Europe and in the world, in addition to this, social charges are also high since you are discounted monthly for health, unemployment insurance, retirement, among others. Obviously, the counterpart of all this is the excellent free health system, free education and all the social aids that exist for the people who need them, so I gladly pay my taxes every month (greetings to the French tax authority, in case they are reading this 😉).
As a rule, the net salary, before taxes, is the equivalent of 78% of the gross salary. For example, a gross salary of € 2,000 per month is equivalent to a net salary of € 1,560, before taxes. Taxes must be deducted from this amount, which in this case would be € 39 for a net salary of € 1,521, i.e. approximately 25% of the gross salary is discounted each month and this percentage increases with the salary.
On the internet you will find many tools, like this one, to calculate the net salary.
Minimum Salary and Average Salary
To get an idea of what is considered a good salary in France and what salary you can aspire to, it is important to also take into account the minimum wage or SMIC (Salaire minimum de croissance) which for 2020 is € 1,539.42, i.e. € 1,200 net, those who receive the minimum wage do not pay income tax so this is the final amount.
The average salary, meanwhile, is € 2,300 net per month, according to figures published by INSEE, the institution that publishes all the statistics in France.
How to evaluate my salary?
If you want to have more elements to negotiate, or to know if your salary is within the market range, there are two websites that I recommend for comparing salaries. On the internet you will find many websites with salary averages by industries, cities, etc. But what differentiates these websites is the fact that information is entered by users, so these are real salaries.
- Glassdoor: It is the website par excellence to compare salaries. In addition to salaries, you can find job offers and employee reviews on many companies, which is also very useful when you are evaluating a job offer.
On this website you can search by position and city, which is good, since in Paris salaries are higher than in other cities, since rental costs are much higher.
Below you will find an example of salary search for the position of Marketing Manager in Paris:
As you can see in the results, the search gives a range of salaries according to the information entered by the different users. You can also search by company.
- Choosemycompany: This is the French sister of Glassdoor, the principle is the same but only focused on the French labor market.
Here is an example for the same search. As you can see, on this website you can find a salary range according to years of experience, so it is a great complement to Glassdoor.
I hope these tips are useful to negotiate your salary and get a better idea on what salary you can aspire to in France. Regarding what is considered a good salary in France, this depends on the level of studies, the profile of the position, the company and the city. But, in the end, a good salary will be the salary that allows you to cover your expenses and lead a comfortable life, but this is quite personal since not all of us spend on the same things.
If you have any questions, or want to share your experience, please do not hesitate to comment.