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Freelances in France

pigistes in Paris

NUJ Paris Branch member Simon Coss explains how to be a freelance journalist (sorry, "writer" or "consultant") and the status of pigistes paid a sort of pro-rata salary for their work.

If you are doing work that is recognised as journalism under French labour law (broadly speaking this would be working as a reporter, editor or sub in a recognised media company, whether a newspaper, magazine, broadcaster, press agency, web news service) and if your employer is registered in France as a media operation then you have the right to be paid as a pigiste.

This is a fundamentally different concept to a freelance as understood in the UK. A pige - the money a pigiste is paid for their work - is in fact a pro-rata salary, from which social security charges, pension payments etc. have been deducted, leaving you with a net sum. This means pigistes are eligible for unemployment payments, some pension and health cover.

Pigistes are not self-employed. Heaven forbid. French unions are adamant that freelance journalists must always be paid as pigistes and indeed you cannot legally call yourself a journalist in France or benefit from the automatic Euro 7650 tax allowance every year - or any of the other advantages journalists enjoy - unless you are paid a salary (a pige for freelances or a normal wage for people on contract) by a recognised, French-registered media company.

But there is a Catch 22. Pige payments apply only if:

  • The work you are doing is considered journalism - people working in PR or the book publishing industry don't count, for example;
  • and your employer is registered in France. If you string for the UK press for example, your employer isn't bound to respect French labour laws, so clearly won't.

We have a large number of freelance members who are 100 per cent genuine hacks but cannot ask for pige payments as they work for the Guardian, The LA Times, Variety etc. Under French law these people cannot declare the work they do as journalism and benefit from the tax breaks. They have to set themselves up as self-employed "consultants" or "writers" or some other such bogus title and one way of doing this is via the auto-Entrepreneur Scheme, which is useful for people who earn relatively small amounts of money as you pay simplified social security charges and only have to keep relatively basic accounts.

People who do earn more than the Auto Entrepreneur limits can set up as standard self-employed with all the joys of dealing with French bureaucracy that involves. The French unions hate Auto-Entrepreneur and self-employment with a vengeance. They specifically had the status of "independent journalist" removed from the list of professions you can set up as under Auto Entrepreneur.

The Paris NUJ branch is trying to discuss, with French unions, ways of ensuring hacks who live in France but work for the foreign press - so can't be paid as pigistes - can declare their earnings as journalism. We've suggested "journalist working for the foreign press" could be allowed as an Auto Entrepreneur status.

Last modified: 03 Jun 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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