Media often portray the EU institutions as if everyone working in them is drowning in money. Indeed the top EU jobs are indeed lucrative hovering around the 25 000 EUR mark per month with extra perks. However, for the majority of EU employees their salaries and other benefits are significantly lower and depend on the type of contract you have and multiple other factors, e.g., employment duration and seniority of the post. Of course, they are by no means low compared to most EU countries’ average pay levels and come with additional allowances and other benefits.
You might also want to read this article: How to get a job in an EU agency?
This article provides an overview of what a future employee of EU institutions is entitled to – the base salary, allowances, health insurance, pension rights et cetera. Please bear in mind that the article only covers employees of the European Commission and EU agencies, and does not cover the European Parliament and the EU Council (salaries and benefits are similar, but details might vary).
All of this information is available in public sources, however it is often worded in ‘legalese’, cross-referenced over multiple documents and hard to comprehend to those not initiated in EU bureaucratic matters. Hence, this guide. I for sure would have appreciated something like this resource before embarking on my career in EU institutions.
How much will you make in an EU job?
For people who are contemplating an EU job and even fresh recruits it is often hard to understand what the final salary will look like. The amount one gets in the bank account will depend at least four other factors besides the base salary:
- Type of contract: temporary/permanent official, assistant, secretary/clerk, contract agent, seconded national expert and some more exotic and rare jobs as special adviser.
- Your grade and step.
- Relevant allowances and other payments.
- EU social security contributions
- EU taxes.
- Adjusting it all by the relevant correction coefficient.
If you have a specific job in mind, you can estimate the expected EU salary with the official European Commission calculator.
When thinking about an EU job, the salary and allowances should not be the only things to factor in when making your decision to apply and work for an EU institution. There are a number of other benefits that make an EU job quite attractive in the long run, especially if people are thinking about their pensions or health care.
The salaries of EU employees are strictly regulated and there are clear brackets for each category and sub-category of employees. Below is an overview of the so-called salary scales for each of main the three groups of EU institutions employees:
- Temporary and Permanent Officials (AD 5-16)
- Assistants (AST 1-11). For the ‘Assistants’ category there is also a subcategory of ‘Secretaries and Clerks’ (AST/SC) that comprises of six grades (instead of 11) from AST/SC1 to AST/SC6
- Contract Agents (fonctionnaires, FG I-IV)
EU institutions also employ SNEs or Seconded National Experts, Trainees and Interims. These will be covered in separate articles as technically they are not EU employees. You can also contribute to the mission of EU institutions as a contractor or as a short-term expert in a particular field or a special adviser to a commissioner.
Pay for temporary and permanent officials, and assistants
Officials (temporary and permanent) of the European Commission is the EU staff category that comes to most people’s minds when thinking about EU jobs. These are the people in most senior positions and are most paid employees of EU institutions (except the political appointments like the EU Commissioners and their team members). Here’s an overview of what this staff category makes per month. Values in the table may vary slightly from year to year, but they will give you a rather good idea of the income level.
Salary grid (basic salary in EUR) for temporary officials and assistants in theAD and AST function groups
It is Ok to be an ‘Assistant’!
You shouldn’t shy away from AST or Assistant’s positions. Unless you are a secretary, these usully are not ‘assistants’ to other EU officials. Rather, the title of AST or ‘assistant’ is reserved for jobs of a more technical nature such as linguists, building managements, or ICT specialists. You might oversee a large group of laywer-linguists and still be called an “assistant” with a salary of 8000+ euros.
Salary grid (basic salary in EUR) for secretaries and clerks in the AST/SC function group
As you can already guess, people employed in this role fulfil various secretarial and clerical duties. Professionals in the top grades would already be in managerial roles, overseeing the work of others and be engaged in more strategic planning and problem solving.
Salary grid (basic salary in EUR) for contract agents in the FG I-IV function group
Salaries of contract agents (in French – fonctionnaires) mostly depend on which function group and grade they are in. You as a candidate can not influence the function group as that is decided when the post is advertised, however your length of work experience affects your grade (hence – pay). The longer you have worked, the higher the grade.
A general overview of contract agents’ ‘basic pay’:
- Function Group IV (grade 13-18): 3170 – 6652 EUR
- Function Group III (grade 8-12): 2477 – 4592 EUR
- Function Group II (grade 4-7): 1935 – 3170 EUR
- Function Group I (grade 1-3): 1863 -2696 EUR
The below table contains much more information on contract agents’ pay. In addition to what explained above, you’ll notice ‘steps’ in the table. Most institutions move their contract agents after two years of work. This can happen faster if you perform well and “reclassified”. This can move you faster up the salary scale and you can jump not only steps, but also grades.
As usual, detailed information about salaries of EU officials can be found in the EU Staff Regulations.
How much tax do EU officials pay?
The salaries of employees of EU institutions are are exempt from national tax. This means that you really do not have to pay any tax from your salary in your country of origin. Even if you have to or want to file an income/tax declaration with the national institutions, there is usually a separate form for EU employees that’s tailored to the special tax regime.
Social security contributions (% of basic salary)
The following social security related deductions are made from your salary:
- Pension contributions (10,1%)
- Health insurance (1,70%)
- Accident cover (0,10%)
- Unemployment insurance (0,81%)
The EU also collects a special solidarity levy of 6% which is deducted directly from the salary. The rate is 7% for officials in grade AD15, step 2, and above, but this applies to like 100 persons in the whole of EU institutions. This levy is applied from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2023.
EU employees are also paying an EU Income Tax of 8% to 45% applied progressively depending on the size of your salary. The more you earn, the larger the EU Income Tax. The EU income tax remains at 8% for salaries below approximately 60000 euros.
The Correction Coefficient
One of the main factors that impacts your take-home pay in an EU job is the ‘correction coefficient’. The EU annually tracks how expensive it is to live in any particular country and assigns a coefficient with Brussels being 100%. If you end up working or an EU institution located in the East or South of the EU, be ready for a substantially lower take-home pay compared to your Brussels colleagues.
Read more about the correction coefficient.
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