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How Much Income Do I Need to Live in France?

Friday 03 April 2015

A French social monitoring agency has calculated the minimum monthly income a household needs to live 'decently' in France.

One of the questions we frequently receive from readers is just how much income they will need to live in France.

It is, of course, an almost impossible question to answer, for we all have different lifestyles, and what may be regarded as optional expenditure by one household may be considered essential by another.

Nevertheless, in an attempt to give some meaning to the idea of a minimum household budget, in recent years an agency in France responsible for monitoring poverty and social exclusion has published an annual report on the 'budgets de référence' for 'une participation effective à la vie sociale', a slightly broader definition than a subsistence income level.

The report by the L'Observatoire national de la pauvreté et de l'exclusion sociale (ONPES) is not about what households actually spend, but what they need to spend.

No pretence is made at complete geographic coverage, for the results are derived from households living in the two medium sized towns of Tours and Dijon.

As the focus of the study is about monitoring poverty the central characters are households who live in rental accommodation, whether in the public or private sector.

However, the researchers do also usefully include figures for mortgage free retired owner-occupiers.

What the report states is that in 2014, for a retired couple, the minimum monthly income needed to participate effectively in society was €1,769. For a single retired person it was €1,150.

No detailed analysis is available for other owner-occupied household types, although the authors do state that, excluding accommodation costs, the budget necessary for a couple with two children was €2,557 per month.

The table below gives a breakdown of the basket of goods and services that form the monthly household budget in the study for retired couples and single retired persons in owner-occupied accommodation.

Monthly Budget
Retired Couple
Retired Person
Food & Drink
Social Life
Household Goods/Appliances


  • Accommodation - Includes outgoings for energy consumption, repairs/maintenance and taxes.
  • Transport - Covers vehicle maintenance, insurance, fuel and use of public transport.
  • Health - The main cost is a complementary 'top-up' health insurance policy.
  • Social Life - Main expenses are trips and holidays.

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