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Freedom in fixing pay is a fundamental principle of French labour law. It is, however, subject to limits and restraints.

The institution of a government-fixed minimum wage applicable to all employees dates back to 1950. The present statutory national minimum wage, which was introduced in 1970 ("salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance" or SMIC), is intended to guarantee the lowest-paid workers their purchasing power and a share in the nation's economic growth. To this end, the SMIC is not only pegged to one of the consumer price indices but may also, through the application of a review procedure, be raised by decree of the Council of Ministers.

The SMIC is an hourly rate of pay but since 1972 it has been complemented, for all employees whose working hours are at least equal to the statutory working week (39 hours), by a minimum monthly pay level.

In addition, it is the traditional role of collective agreements at industry level to fix minimum rates of pay for each occupational category.

Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.

Page last updated: 14 August, 2009