This blog on New Caledonia is for those of you who ever wondered what life on a tiny island in the South Pacific might be like. Tired of bracing winter winds, the stress of an inner city or simply dreaming of a life change? This is a blog about what happens when, in the words of Yogi Berra, "you come to a fork in the road, [and] take it".

16 March 2007

Wages in New Caledonia

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

With the cost of living being high in New Caledonia, I am often asked if the salaries are commiserate. How are people able to make it here - given that rent, food and clothing are all expensive?

There are several populations on the island. There are the public service employees (the military, the teachers, the administrators, the postal workers, etc.). There are the people who are paid minimum wage (those who work in the food industry, commerce, tourism, etc.). There are the retirees. There are the people who have come from the Loyalty Islands to earn a living to send back to their families.

In general, the public service employees are very well paid in comparison to the average New Caledonian citizen. Those who come for fixed stays often have a very nice salary (higher than they would earn in the "metropole" - mainland France) and some have lodging practically free of charge. They also receive a bonus for being here. The idea is that they should be recompensed for having to living so far away from France. My sense is that the public service employees are among the highest paid. They can easily afford the cost of living here and still have money left over at the end of the month. They generally own cars and boats and their children own scooters and mobile phones.

The minimum monthly wage in New Caledonia is €963.70 (or $1,280.68) . The hourly rate is approximately €6,02 (or $8.00). I know that babysitters are paid approximately €5 an hour, and maids €5,86 an hour. When you look at how much it costs to live in New Caledonia, one wonders how people living on minimum wage make it. Basically, they live frugally. They buy a lot of rice, they shop at the markets, they do not own luxury items, they do not have Internet, they do not go out on outings (many of the locals have never been to the neighbouring islands, much less Australia or New Zealand). They also do not live in big, expensive houses or apartments in town. There are ghettos here, and some build homes out of cardboard boxes or tin siding.

The retirees receive their monthly pensions and then some. They are what we call "indexé". They can receive up to 20-40% more on top of their pensions. Again, this goes back to way back when when it took a week to get here by boat. France esteemed that those willing to travel to, and live in, such a faraway place should be recompensed for such a thing. There is some debate at the moment as to whether or not the indexation should be stopped (it costs France and its taxpayers a pretty penny) - or at least rewarded to those who have worked on the island. For you see, French citizens who come to retire here can receive such an indexation, never having worked here.

Lastly, there are the islanders (from Lifou, Maré and Ouvéa) who come to Nouméa to make a living. My hunch is that they carve out a life for themselves, but it is no picnic. Some of them live in the ghettos - thereby avoiding paying rent and electricity, so as to send more back home. They work as hard as they can and their kids generally stay back on the islands with the tribes. As there is little or no work on the islands, living and working in Nouméa is one of their only choices.

Methinks there is a fifth population - the Caldoches, the island's white local population. They own businesses and nice homes. They've been here a long time and have worked hard for all that they have. They send their kids to mainland France to get good educations and they invest in New Caledonia to keep it thriving.

8 comments:

Elaine said...

This is extremely informative. What a diversified island NC is.

Anonymous said...

If you really want to inform people from abroad, you should first check with people living in NC. I agree with you that public service employees are well paid when compared to the average NC citizen BUT they are not VERY well paid. For example, none of us, in the French public service I work for, have "lodging provided practically free of charge". Where in France do you need to pay 2 000+ Euros for an average flat? So next time check the wages and avantages of people coming here for big private companies before throwing stones to "public service employees". We all need "public service employees", don't we?

Julie said...

Dear Anonymous,

You are so right! We definitely need public service employees - I don't believe society could function without them. In fact, my husband is in the military - which I believe counts as a public service employee. So you see, I have nothing against them whatsoever. The last thing I wanted to do was be critical of them/you.

I meant to say that public service employees are very well paid in comparison to the average NC citizen (I will fix this on the blog). I do believe this, having spoken with a number of teachers and military personnel (from the lowest to the highest in the hierarchy) here on the island. But you are right. I cannot know everything, and it is always good to hear from others.

I really appreciate your comments. Thank you for taking the time to post a note.

With regard to your other questions/comments:

- The public service employees who pay a fraction of the going rents here are the military. 10% or so of the rent is deducted from their pay. The rest is handled by the government.

- A 90m2 flat in central Paris (5th or 6th arrondissements) now runs at €2 200-2 400 a month. I know this as we are currently investigating flats in Paris and we have several sources in real estate.

- I would love to know more about the people being hired from abroad by big companies here. I have been told time and again that it is very hard to work here as locals are hired first and foremost (which I believe is absolutely right to do). I'm sorry I did not include this population in my post. I simply have not met these people yet. Perhaps you could tell us more?

Thanking you again for your thoughtful comments - we hope to hear from you again soon.

Kind regards,

Julie

Elisa (Italia) said...

Ciao
volevo farti i complimenti hai un sito bellissimo un abbraccio dall'Italia
Elisa


Congratulations on a beautiful website
Loved everything on your site and you did a magnificent job. You should be proud of yourself

Julie said...

Grazie! Vieni a trovarmi di nuovo per piacere!

Thanks a million for your kind comments. Please keep coming back. :)

All the best,

Julie

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was just wondering how much income-tax one pays in New Caledonia?

Julie said...

Income tax in New Caledonia of course depends on salary earned. If you would like to do a quick calculation, you might like to go to http://www.dsf.gouv.nc/ and click on "calcul des impots" (in French). To give you a general idea, income taxes are less in New Caledonia than in France, but unfortunately I cannot say how much less ...

Anonymous said...

there as well number of Tahitians, Wallisian,people from Vanuatu. 2nd generation of Vietnamese and French from Europe who are not public service employees. Most of the cultures don´t mix with each other.