European Federation of Journalists

Freelancers in Belgium: wages remain precariously low

Freelance fees in the french-speaking Belgium haven’t developed for more than ten years. That reveals the latest inquiry “Les tarifs de la pige”, published on 05 August by our Belgian affiliate Association Générale des Journalistes Professionnels (AJP). The fourth edition of the study shows, some tariffs of freelance-journalists have remained on the same precarious level since it was first raised in 2007 – and some even dropped below. But it doesn’t have to be like that, says Sophie Lejoly, Deputy Secretary General of the AJP.

Whether it’s newspapers, magazines, web editions, TV or radio, public or private media – the results are all the same. Over the last inquiries in 2007, 2012 and 2015, freelancer’s remuneration didn’t develop. Based on the answers of 255 respondents working in the french-speaking Belgium, AJP determined an average freelance-wage between 2000€ and 2400€ gross. In details, the payments in daily newspapers range between 0,02€ and 0,06€ per sign, while the ones in weekly or monthly newspapers are slightly higher. In the audio-visual sector, freelancers earn about 20€ to 30€ per hour. For the first time, AJP’s survey includes questions about fixed lumps and takes the possible distribution between fees and payments for author’s rights into account.

  • Slow process towards better remuneration

After AJP’s first inquiry, they even had a campaign in the streets to embody its slogan ‘Pigiste, pas pigeon’. “The goal was to let the public know how bad freelancers’ working conditions are and to push the media companies to rise their prices.”, says Lejoly. “Unfortunately, it is a very slow process, and the financial crisis hasn’t certainly helped.” But AJP has now spotted an encouraging new trend: Especially new magazines aiming quality, just like Médor and Wilfried, are committed to pay the freelancers a fair price for the amount of work needed to make good articles.

  • What to do: get informed!

Help is at hand, assures Lejoly. In order to tackle the problem, AJP has published “Le Guide du Pigiste“, a practical book full of information to help freelancers have all they need. Apart from that, the union has launched the online platform, where they can find a fee calculator, a job board and news concerning the journalism sector. “And for sure, freelancers can contact AJP everyday to get legal advice on prices, conventions, etc.”, adds Lejoly.

Most of the time, the only way to negotiate for higher wage is to convince employers of your personal experience and knowledge. “First of all, get informed!”, advises Lejoly. “Know the prices the employer usually pays, and certainly do not accept something lower. Try to get your experience or your specialty valued. And if you have doubts, ask a legal adviser to read your convention/deal. You are not obliged to sign something immediately.”

The research using an online survey was driven in May and June 2019. The results of the study can be downloaded here.

Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash