Large income variation among workers in personal services sector

In 2006, some 1.6 million workers in France were directly employed by individuals in personal services. On average, these workers have 2.2 employers. Their hourly wages are relatively similar: 80% of the workers earn between €6.30 and €9.40 an hour. However, as the number of hours worked varies considerably, the total wages received in 2006 are spread on a large scale: 10% of the workers earned less than €141 and 10% earned more than €8,782.

A study by the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques, INSEE), carried out in 2006, has examined the work situation regarding persons who are directly employed by individuals. The study (in French) does not include other jobs which these workers could have in addition to direct employment by individuals, nor does it cover the hours of work done for individuals as employees of a public or private organisation – mainly in the field of home help.

Gender and age profile

Almost half of the workers directly employed by private individuals work either in childcare (21%) or in care for dependent persons (28%). The remaining 51% cover a large field of activities, ranging from educational support to ironing or help in information technology (IT). In the first group, comprising care for individuals, women represent 90% of the workers – and even 99.7% of childminders. Meanwhile, men represent 13% of the second group, that is, the remaining 51% of workers directly employed by individuals.

Regarding childcare, the study defines two situations: childminders at their own home and childminders at the employer’s home. The average age of people working in their own home is rather high, at 46 years, while it is relatively low for childminders at the employer’s home (37 years, compared with 39 years for the total population of employees in the private sector).

Some 7% of the workers directly employed by individuals are aged over 60 years, compared with 2% of the total population working in the private sector. These activities can be carried out by retired people to earn a complementary income.

Atypical form of employment

The number of workers directly employed by individuals differs according to the period considered. During a standard week, about one million of these persons are working. Over a three-month reference period, more than 1.2 million workers are directly employed by individuals. Indeed, when calculating over a whole year, these workers total 1.6 million. This varied situation is largely due to the nature of short-term employment contracts in these activities.

On average, these workers are employed by 2.2 employers and 50% of them work for several employers within the same week. Having several employers simultaneously is generally feasible to some extent, depending on the activity. For childminders working in their own home, it is easier: 66% of them have several employers, and 38% of them mind at least three children and are therefore potentially working for the same number of employers simultaneously. By contrast, only 13% of the childminders working at their employer’s home had several employers. Some 70% of those employed as a home help work for a single employer only.

Large income gap

The hourly wages in this working population are rather similar and conform to national standards: the 10% of workers who were less well paid had a net hourly wage of €6.30 – equivalent to the national minimum wage (salaire minimum de croissance, SMIC) – while the net hourly wage was €9.40 for the 10% of workers who were best paid.

Nevertheless, a great dispersion emerges across the annual net wage of these workers, as indicated in the table below. It shows, for example, that the highest paid 10% of the persons employed by individuals worked over 1,162 hours in 2006 and they received a net total income of more than €8,782 on all of their work contracts combined. By contrast, 10% of these workers worked less than 18 hours in the entire year and received less than €141 in 2006.

Annual net wage, hourly wage and number of hours worked on all their contracts, by workers directly employed by individuals, 2006
  Total net income (€) Hourly net wage (€) Number of hours worked a year
1st decile 141 6.30 18
2nd decile 334 6.80 44
3rd decile 631 7.00 84
4th decile 1,048 7.10 141
5th decile (median) 1,666 7.20 227
6th decile 2,577 7.40 352
7th decile 3,889 7.80 527
8th decile 5,780 8.30 776
9th decile 8,782 9.40 1,162
9th decile / 1st decile 62.40 1.50 64.6

Sources: The National Old Age Insurance Fund (Caisse nationale d’assurance vieillesse, Cnav); the Universal service employment cheque (Chèque emploi service universel, Cesu) declarations, the ‘Simplified personal declaration’ (Déclaration nominative simplifiée, DNS) and the Young child’s early days benefit (Déclaration de prestation d’accueil du jeune enfant, Paje). INSEE calculations. For more details, see p.4 of the study (in French, 88Kb PDF).

As indicated in the table, the gap between the highest and lowest income is mainly due to the very high variation in the number of hours worked. It should be noted that 1,162 hours is less than the legal working time for full-time workers, which amounts to 1,600 hours a year.

Effect of type of work

The income situation differs notably according to the activity. The median annual wage for childminders at their own home is €6,554. Wage dispersion is much less significant in this group: an 11.8 ratio appears between the highest and the lowest income, compared with the 62.4 ratio for all those employed by individuals. It is worth noting that, as these childminders can work simultaneously for several employers, the total number of hours paid by the employers does not correspond to the number of hours actually worked.

The dispersion of wages and number of hours worked is higher for home helpers and childminders at the employer’s home, compared with the situation for childminders at their own home. The median annual working time for home helpers is 157 hours, while it is 349 hours for childminders.


Marbot, C., Dejonghe, V. and Burniaux, V., ‘Les salariés des particuliers–employeurs en 2006’, INSEE Première No. 1173, January 2008.

Anne-Marie Nicot, ANACT

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