For more than seventy years, French law has established a minimum salary below which it is illegal to employ someone.

The minimum wage, which has become the minimum wage, is the basis of labor regulations in France.

It is to the socialist presidency of Vincent Auriol that we owe the creation of the smig for “guaranteed national interprofessional minimum wage”, as it was then called.

In the post-war context, the law of February 11, 1950 sought to restore the freedom to negotiate salaries, in particular thanks to the collective actions of the unions, after eleven years of absolute control by the State.

In order to avoid certain abuses, the legislation therefore introduced the minimum wage to compensate for the lack of consultation in sectors where professional organizations were weak.

At the time, it was set at 64 (old) francs gross per hour in the regions and 78 francs in Paris.

That said, the government did not intend to make it a reference or that its possible increase would have repercussions on all other salaries, as already claimed by certain unions, at the head of which the CGT.

The arrival of the minimum wage

Based solely on inflation, the minimum wage has not, however, prevented the gap between the highest and lowest salaries from widening.

Twenty years later, the social revolution of May 1968 then gave rise to strong demands from the unions demanding a 35% increase in the minimum wage.

Faced with the scale of the movement, the Gaullist presidency of Georges Pompidou therefore recorded the failure of the minimum wage and replaced it with the minimum wage, the minimum interprofessional wage for growth, through a law of January 2, 1970 which intended to better distribute the fruits of growth.

A strong evolution

This minimum remuneration evolves according to three mechanisms.

Each year, an automatic revaluation takes place on January 1st taking into account in part the gain in purchasing power of the average hourly wage of workers and employees.

This development is also based on inflation for the 20% of households with the lowest incomes.

In addition, a revaluation takes place during the year, in the month following any increase of at least 2% in the consumer price index published by INSEE.

Finally, the government reserves the right to boost the minimum wage at any time and on a discretionary basis, going beyond the mechanisms in place.

These famous "boosts" also served to reduce wage inequalities throughout the 1970s, helping to quickly raise the minimum wage from 3.36 francs gross per hour that year to 13, 37 francs in 1980. While the minimum wage has since increased significantly, from 6.67 to 9.40 euros gross per hour between 2001 and 2012, no additional increase, apart from automatic mechanisms, has been applied since that date .

On the other hand, due to the increase in consumer prices, the minimum wage went from 10.57 euros on January 1, 2022 to 10.85 euros on May 1.


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  • Legislation

  • purchasing power

  • Economy

  • minimum wage