What income makes you rich in France? Think tank sets 2024 figure

‘The rich are getting richer, but there are fewer of them’, the report adds

An income of €3,489 net a month puts you in the top 10% for income in France, the study found, although this is slightly below the official ‘rich’ threshold
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How much money do you need to be ‘rich’ in France? A think tank has reignited the debate by publishing a new figure - and it has warned that while fewer people are now rich, the wealthiest are getting richer.

In its third annual study on the topic, equality think tank L’Observatoire des inégalités has said that the monthly after-tax income that makes you rich is:

  • €3,860 net for a single person
  • €5,018 net for a single person with a child under 14
  • €5,790 net for a couple without children
  • €6,948 net for a couple with one child under 14
  • €9,650 net for a family with two children over 14

The study also found that an older man at manager level or above, aged 60, is most likely to fit this category in France.

At the higher end of the scale, the study found that a monthly income of: 

  • €3,489 net puts you in the top 10% for income in France (slightly below the ‘rich’ threshold)
  • €4,417 net puts you in the top 5%
  • €7,180 net puts you in the top 1%

It found that receiving €3,900 net per month for a single person means that the recipient is earning more than 93% of the population.

“With that income, you can afford good housing, you'll be able to save, you'll be able to pass on your assets, and you'll be protected against the worst unforeseen risks of life,” said Louis Maurin, director of the Observatoire.

Read also: Typical wealth of people in France revealed: Where do you fall? 

How many people are rich in France?

The new Observatorire threshold means that 4.7 million people in France are rich, it said, based on Insee figures from 2021. This equates to 7.4% of the population.

However, this figure has dropped over the past decade or so (since 2011), when the number of ‘rich’ people was 5.5 million. This means that the number of rich people fell by almost 800,000 between 2011 and 2021.

The richest in the country are steadily getting richer, the Observatoire said. Half have a standard of living of more than 1.28 times the wealth threshold, compared with 1.26 in 2011. 

Similarly, the Observatoire said that: 

  • At the start of the 1980s, the wealthiest individuals accounted for 7.7% of all pre-tax income
  • By 2022: This had risen to 12.6% 

“Since the previous report, published in 2022, we have seen an intensification of wealth”, said Mr Maurin. “The rich are getting richer, but there are fewer of them.”

Read also: How much must you earn to be officially rich in France? 
Read also: $193bn: how did this French businessman get so rich? 

Calculation uses ‘poverty line’ as a starting point

The Observatoire calculated these new figures partly by using the ‘poverty line’ set by national statistics bureau Insee as a starting point. This line is determined using the median standard of living.

This is currently €1,930 after tax and social benefits, per month, for a single person. Insee states that someone is among the poorest in society if they earn less than 60% of this median standard of living. This figure is also used in much of the European Union.

“We considered that the rich were those who received double this median standard of living,” said Mr Maurin.

At the lower end of income, the study found: 

  • €2,787 net is the limit between the middle class and the wealthier classes
  • €1,930 net is the median income (50% live with less)
  • €1,530 net is the limit between the middle class and the ‘working’ class
  • €1,390 net is the minimum wage (Smic)
  • €1,024 net is the maximum income per person per month for the 10% poorest in society
  • €965 net is the poverty line
  • €559 net is the income for someone receiving the benefit RSA (Revenu de solidarité active) only 

Where do the richest people live in France?

The study also showed that in six departments - of which four are in Ile-de-France - the incomes of the wealthiest are more than twice the median standard of living of people in France, i.e. at least €3,860 per person after tax and social benefits.

  • Paris: The minimum standard of living for the richest 10% of Parisians is almost €6,000 net per month for a single person 
  • Hauts-de-Seine: The richest 10% earn at least €5,218 euros net per month for a single person
  • Haute-Savoie: €5,005 net for the richest 10%
  • Yvelines: €4,428 net
  • Val-de-Marne: €3,907 net
  • Ain: €3,896 net

The report also found:

  • Gironde: The 10% wealthiest earn at least €3,439 net per person per month
  • Haute-Garonne: At least €3,533 net to be in the top 10%
  • Bouches-du-Rhône: At least €3,482 net to be in the top 10%
  • Alpes-Maritimes: €3,643 net
  • Moselle: €3,477 net
  • Haut-Rhin: €3,853 net
  • Bas-Rhin: €3,457 net

The departments of Creuse and Indre are less well-off, with just €2,783 net and €2,834 net needed respectively to be in the top 10% of earners.

Even more specifically, the report found that the top 10% of people in the 7th arrondissement in Paris earn on average €12,423 net per month. In the 8th and 6th, the top 10% earn on average €10,866 net and €10,529 net respectively. This is higher than people in the wealthy 16th arrondissement, where the minimum standard of living is close to €10,000 net per person per month.

Another of the richest communes is Veyrier-du-Lac (Haute-Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), where the richest 10% of people earn an average of €10,039 for a single person after tax.

“The proximity of Switzerland in particular [for some departments] means that part of the border population enjoys very high salaries,” said the report.

Read also: Go west: why the wealthy shun the east of town in France 

The definition of rich is ‘ambivalent’

For its part, Insee does not publish figures on who is ‘rich’, as it believes that the issue is not only political, but also difficult to define. It states that someone may be rich not only due to income, but also due to assets.

For example, farmers may receive modest income per month, but likely own land, large machinery, and farm buildings and property.

Similarly, the idea of ‘rich’ partly depends on location. In Paris, people may earn more than people in other parts of the country, but their quality of life may not be particularly high, due to higher costs. ‘Richness’ may also refer to a person’s feeling of community and how good their health is as they age.

“Defining a wealth threshold…is somewhat arbitrary,” said Julien Damon to Le Monde

However, Pierre Madec, an economist at the Observatoire français des conjonctures économiques (OFCE) said that measuring wealth can be useful for “assessing public policy”. 

“It would be interesting to know how many people will change categories, and move into the wealth bracket when we change the income tax scale,” he said.