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Ask HN: How to increase SWE salaries in Europe?

1 week ago/970 comments

It is often mentioned that Software Engineer salaries in Europe are significantly lower compared to US salaries, even adjusting for lower Cost of Living.

The consensus on why that is seems to be: * Individual contributors in Europe are not as valued as much as managerial professions, due to cultural/historical reasons

* Salaries in the US are skewed due to the presence of FAANG companies and VC money, which inflate salaries through the large amount of capital they inject in the system

* Europe has less freedom of enterprise (debatable), is in general more risk averse, and has a less dynamic job market (more difficult to fire lower performers), which results in lower wages to compensate for these factors.

Reasons aside, how can the European tech job market become more competitive?

8 days ago by alkonaut

I got my higher education for free. I expect to save nothing for my children or their education. I expect to have to put aside very little for retirement.

The thing is, I just can’t find an argument why I should be able to get very rich doing my job. It’s a comfortable job. It pays a good salary. I got here by taking no risk at all. I wouldn’t want to switch jobs just to drive up my pay even if I could. I have other things to think about. I have worked 20 years in the same job and so have my colleagues. This is a cultural difference I feel.

8 days ago by arcticbull

A lot of folks here are calling out the lower pay for SWEs in Europe and Canada as a failure - but also praise the low wealth inequality and low income inequality in Europe and Canada.

You can't have low inequality by definition if you decide to start paying one group a ton of money.

Well, this is a lot like the housing conversation in the US. "I want my house to go up in value, and be a great investment!" Also: "Why can't I afford a house?"

You can't have your cake and eat it too.

It's not necessarily a failure, it's just a different place to draw the line on social contract. While individual contributors earn less the social safety net also makes it much easier to found and grow a business without the threat of death and guarantees a peaceable minimum standard of living. It's also worth pointing out that salary, especially at high seniority levels, becomes a smaller and smaller part of total compensation.

8 days ago by sidlls

Paying laborers more does not lead to the kind of inequality we see.

"You can't have low inequality by definition if you decide to start paying one group a ton of money."

Very few of even FAANG-level salaries are high enough to put them in the same bucket as the people who wield power through their wealth. Paying the entire field of SWE laborers even 50% more salary is not going to appreciably change the inequality gap.

8 days ago by cjblomqvist

Are you sure about that? Sure, not the top elite, but there's still a significant gap between upper middle class and lower in for example Sweden, which I believe is one of the more equal countries. FAANG level salaries would significantly widen that gap.

8 days ago by frombody

Marginal tax rates are much higher in Europe at lower levels, so in order to pay someone 50% more, you would have to pay them 100% more for them to get a 50% pay increase to make up for the money taken by taxes (the mechanism that prevents wealth inequality)

8 days ago by atomashpolskiy

Given that in modern economy it's insurmountably more difficult to earn first million than the next ten, 50% increase in SWE salary would give a huge advantage and produce non-linear effects on inequality gap.

7 days ago by pas

It does lead to gentrification, instant conflicts between newcomers and old residents, pushes up prices, etc.

Plus having that more money means one can invest a bit, and a generation later dad can give a big gift to help seed the kid's startup.

8 days ago by thomasahle

> You can't have low inequality by definition if you decide to start paying one group a ton of money.

You can, if you give the other groups a ton of money too.

Wages in Europe have stagnated compared to GDP [1] too, so it's not unreasonable to fight for higher wages.

[1]: https://www.robert-schuman.eu/en/european-issues/0289-labour...

8 days ago by IMTDb

There is only so much "richness" you can share. You can't give 400 million american a nice car, a big house with a view on the ocean, 100% organic food and access to top level healthcare and education. Unless you produce those thing at that scale, and some things are by definition not scalable (there is only one "best medical school in the US"). So some people have more power to get access to/acquire those desirable items. And software engineers are often amongst the first in line. If you want other people to have a better access to these, by definition that leads to current "first in line" to loose something.

Giving more money to everyone is easy, everyone was a billionaire in Zimbabwe few years back. That did not make them "rich".

8 days ago by ako

Everybody earning more will just lead to more inflation. I expect most of the additional pay will end up in higher housing prices.

8 days ago by didibus

> You can't have low inequality by definition if you decide to start paying one group a ton of money.

That's true, but the question is, the higher salary you refuse to take as a SWE in Europe, does it really go instead to someone else in need of it? Or is it just pocketed by someone who already has more money than you?

8 days ago by CaptArmchair

Both.

Fiscal policies and budgeting policies aren't "This group of people will pay for that group of people, and that group will pay for the other."

Your taxes become part of a revenue line on various budgets. Who gets what is defined through various public policies, grants, subsidies, procurement. Maybe a chunk of your taxes will be allotted to social programs, another chunk to NASA and maybe another chunk to various endowments such as the Humanities and the Arts.

Moreover, the issue isn't just how tax revenue is spend. The issue is just as much in how taxes are levied. Income taxes for individuals vary from taxes on financial instruments, corporate taxes, value added taxes and various other taxes. Or even the taxes that get tacked on your various utility bills, the estate you inherit from a loved one and so on.

> Or is it just pocketed by someone who already has more money than you?

Money is often seen as a store of value. The more you have of it, the better of you are. But that's only part of the story.

Money only gains real value when it is exchanged. That's how wealth is created. Money acts as "oil in an engine". If money doesn't get exchanged, you have an economic crisis.

The big issue is today is that 50 years of complex global policy making have generated dynamics that pushed holes in the engine, causing that oil to leak away. Where to? The financial markets. Where money is exchanged for debts.

If you want an equitable economy, you have to address fiscal and monetary policies first. Not this "who gets my money" argument.

7 days ago by elindbe3

Or it could be neither. Perhaps that revenue isn't being generated in the first place.

8 days ago by eecks

> you refuse to take as a SWE in Europe

Refuse to take?

8 days ago by betaby

I wouldn't call Canadian (or Fr or Se) wealth inequality 'low'. 'Why I can't afford a house', again is more a problem in Fr/De/Se than in US, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_home_owne...

8 days ago by arcticbull

Inequality in Canada is substantially lower than in America (and is on par with Australia, and between Fr and Se). This is evidenced in their Gini coefficients. [1]

- Gini for SE is 0.25

- Gini for FR is 0.31

- Gini for CA is 0.33

- Gini for US is 0.48

- Gini for ZA is 0.65

I've also included South Africa for comparison, one of the least equal societies on earth. A photo of what a 0.65 Gini country looks like is here (https://blog.prif.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/SA_Drone_Pi...)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient

8 days ago by adrianN

Home ownership is strongly influenced by culture. Germans are just happier to rent. Buying often doesn't make a lot of sense financially either. It's not much cheaper to buy than to rent and you lose a lot of flexibility. I could afford to buy a house, but I don't want to. That would just tie up a large fraction of my wealth into one fairly risky investment and make it much harder to move when my life changes.

8 days ago by hogFeast

I don't know about the other countries you have mentioned but German residential real estate has very high levels of institutional investment and the legacy of rent control (famously, Berlin...although that changed a few years ago).

So you have very high wealth inequality, average German net financial wealth is equal to Greece and Germany has a significant number of billionaires, but you also have a system that fundamentally cannot be compared with the US. It just optimises for different things.

That being said, whilst recognising those differences, lower wealth inequality is not the result of most of these systems. Income inequality is generally lower but the cost of this is usually: low competition, high structural unemployment, weak unions, low levels of business creation...it isn't free. It is readly apparent from the EU that whilst the US has high inequality, it also has a far more dynamic economy that results in more people actually becoming wealthy (to take Germany as an example, most billionaires come from families that got rich in the 30s and inherited...the level of downward mobility is very high in the US) and higher levels of innovation.

8 days ago by KronisLV

That does sound like a pretty stress-free way to live!

That said, living in Europe doesn't always equal good living conditions and stability - it depends on the particular country you're in as well.

My net salary is just over 1000€ per month as a software dev. My living expenses eat up around half of that. If a quick search turns up that in USA the median salary for a dev is around 100k$ per year ( https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/software-develope... ), that means that i'd need anywhere from ~8 to ~14 years to save as much as they could in a year (depending on their disposable income, taxes, currency value etc.).

In short, i'd much prefer not to spend a decade to get to the point where i'm as financially stable who's worked for a year, if even that.

People oftentimes mention purchasing power parity, but it breaks down in a global economy: for example, i cannot afford AWS and most SaaS/PaaS tools.

That's just one of the reasons why one could look for a better financial situation. Compound interest and investments in general could be another. Stability and peace of mind, although not guaranteed, could be a third.

8 days ago by drdaeman

> My net salary is just over 1000€

That's really low, even for poorer European countries. Decent middle-level software engineer in, let's say, Ukraine (no offense meant - it is a good country, just isn't one famous for high incomes), easily makes at least 2k (and I say "at least" - that's awfully underpaid).

> that means that i'd need anywhere from ~8 to ~14 years to save as much as they could in a year

That's a bit exaggerated figure. It's 100k before taxes (so, around $5.8k/mo), and rent (or mortgage) costs are significantly higher (I believe it's around $1-3k/mo, highly varying depending on where you live and how comfortable you live). And it's not just rent but other expenses as well.

8 days ago by dnpp123

> That's really low, even for poorer European countries

He said net salary. I know a lot of engineers from C schools in mid-size towns in France who are paid less than 2k euro net.

8 days ago by KronisLV

Agreed, my particular situation might be caused by the fact that i initially started working at my present company before finishing my bachelor's and am currently working on finishing my master's. Since the initial salary i was hired with was even lower, it has never quite caught up - job hopping might address that.

But even so, the average net salary in this country is even lower than that (overall, not for software developers) and i don't have kids or a car to take care of, hence others could also have those expenses to consider.

Thus, factoring those in, it might indeed take a substantial amount of time to create any savings. For example, i presently have 25k€ in my bank account, though it has taken about 4 years to get there.

That's not to say that people in US or other places also don't have similar factors to deal with, like healthcare costs or student loans.

8 days ago by krageon

If Ukraine legitimately has an average net salary of 2k for a SWE it's better than the actually good parts of the EU. I really, really doubt that this is true.

8 days ago by throwaway894345

I considered moving to France for a few years (from the US), but I was shocked to find it would be a 40% pay cut, even after factoring in all of the healthcare and other expenses we Americans enjoy. And the cost of living is a fair bit higher in France to boot.

Now that companies are cozying up to remote work, I think I’ll jist do more frequent 3 month trips and work in the evenings when I run out of vacation days. Then I can keep my cushy American salary and afford to travel, avoid dealing with VISAs, and France get my cost of living / tourism money without me taking a Frenchman’s job. Seems like a better arrangement all around.

8 days ago by JCharante

> I think I’ll jist do more frequent 3 month trips and work in the evenings when I run out of vacation days. Then I can keep my cushy American salary and afford to travel, avoid dealing with VISAs, and France get my cost of living / tourism money without me taking a Frenchman’s job.

Hopefully countries will also warm up to remote work and will create legal avenues for individuals to do remote work while still paying taxes.

8 days ago by jbn

watch out, if you spend more time in France than in any other country (not just 183 days per year), then you will be considered a fiscal resident of France and therefore taxable on income. in addition, you can't really work remotely and avoid employment taxes, pension contributions, etc... this is only tenable if you spend a minor portion of the time in the country (like any other country, really... states need their taxes obviously).

8 days ago by burntoutfire

> avoid dealing with VISAs

VISA is a name of a company. What you mean is just "visa".

8 days ago by LordAtlas

> My net salary is just over 1000€ per month

You would be underpaid in India, where I live, let alone Europe.

8 days ago by ACS_Solver

> My net salary is just over 1000€ per month as a software dev.

You're way underpaid even for Latvia. The national average now is 1100 EUR gross, or 812 EUR net (https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/ekonomika/videja-alga-uz-pap...), but for the IT field the average gross is 1829 EUR, which I believe is around 1300 net. Unless you're somewhere in Latgale where everything is much cheaper, or unless you just graduated last year, your net income should be at least some 20% higher.

8 days ago by irrational

I graduated with 2 bachelors degrees and a masters degree with no debt through scholarships and grants. I have saved nothing for my children’s education. If they want to attend college, it is on them to pay their way just as it was for me. I’ve told them that I will help a bit during their first year. My company matches my retirement savings up to 5%. I save nothing else for retirement. I should have millions of dollars in my retirement fund by the time I retire (I already have over a million). That plus social security should take take care of my retirement. I have a very comfortable job. I live about a 15 minute leisurely bike ride from campus. I work 20-30 hours a week. My company doesn’t track my hours and as long as I get me assignments done everyone is happy. I can take up to 6 weeks of vacation a year plus 10 more fixed holidays that everyone gets. My health benefits are frankly amazing and cheap. On top of all of that I receive a very healthy six figure salary. There are many hundreds of developers at my company that are similarly blessed. My point is that it is possible to receive a very good salary while still receiving many of the benefits you claim.

8 days ago by crooked-v

> If they want to attend college, it is on them to pay their way just as it was for me.

You seem to be completely unaware of how wildly the cost of education has increased even over just the past decade, especially for 4-year institutions.

8 days ago by irrational

It depends on the university. I just checked and the university I attended is only about $750 more expensive per semester now than it was when I attended 2 decades ago. Not all universities jacked up their tuition.

7 days ago by tasuki

Where? You seem to be completely unaware that cost of education varies by country.

8 days ago by sergiotapia

How? FIU is 7$k per year, that's not prohibitively expensive. I don't understand how people get out of college with $400,000 in student loans.

8 days ago by hn_throwaway_99

> I graduated with 2 bachelors degrees and a masters degree with no debt through scholarships and grants. I have saved nothing for my children’s education. If they want to attend college, it is on them to pay their way just as it was for me. I’ve told them that I will help a bit during their first year.

I just want to point out how incredibly, incredibly rare that is for anyone to have that experience in the US today, where according to you:

1. You were able to graduate debt free, and since you say you had no debt "through scholarships and grants", I'm taking that to mean your parents didn't pay for your college. While that is certainly possible (e.g. some colleges offer free rides for very top students), it is VERY rare.

2. You intend to save nothing for your children's education. That is not only exceedingly rare, pretty much all financial aid packages expect/require a certain amount of parental contributions. You better hope your kids get lots of scholarships and grants, otherwise they won't be going to college.

Personally, I went to a top US university. I had some grants and scholarships but my parents still contributed a good part to my first 2 years, and I graduated with considerable but manageable debt. I've worked in software jobs over the past 2 decades, including 1 company where my stock options were worth a considerable amount, so I've saved a lot. I work considerably more than 40 hours a week, so honestly I'm quite envious of your "20-30 hours a week" story - I don't know any job where you can work that little and still get paid that well. I see a very large portion of my salary every year go to healthcare and retirement, and as I am childless I don't have to save for my kids education.

I mean, I'm doing quite well, and I still have anxiety about all the things I need to save for. I can't imagine making a more median-level salary, with today's cost of education, and with kids, and not being much more stressed at the prospect of having to handle everything financially.

8 days ago by ulfw

Yea I am sorry but earning millions for 20 hours of work a week isn't normal in any kind of job I've seen. So count your blessings and luck. Normal this ain't.

8 days ago by hn_throwaway_99

Agreed - a lot of the parts of his story I thought "OK, that sounds extremely rare, but possible", but the working "20-30 hours a week" bit? Where the hell is that? Do people at FAANGs honestly work 4-6 hours a day 5 days a week?

8 days ago by tchalla

> My point is that it is possible to receive a very good salary while still receiving many of the benefits you claim.

A lot of things are possible but not probable.

8 days ago by FlyingSnake

I have come to the same realisation. I would rather have a better quality of life than I had in US than to get tons of $$ and live off in a gated community. Great public transport, healthcare, schools, world class Unis, top notch research institutes, and great cultural institutes. The Gemeinschaft approach works here because you need to contribute back to the society in order to reap it's benefits.

8 days ago by kimburgess

100% this. As an outside observer, the US is country with an almost impressive list of societal issues. Inequality aside, it's filled with a hermit-like population with little to no knowledge of the world outside its borders unless they visited it as part of military action, failing power structures, regular school shootings, suicide bombings, riots, an uncontrolled pandemic, insurrection, religious extremists and a volatile political situation, at best. No matter how much danger money you have to build into a salary to attract or keep staff, no thank you.

8 days ago by rhexs

Recommend you take a break from the news then.

8 days ago by selimthegrim

Wait what suicide bombings (barring Nashville)

8 days ago by ahupp

Major US tech companies earn a profit-per-employee of $200-400k[0]. That's across every employee, so depending on how you attribute value the profit-per-SWE is much higher. That gives a lot of headroom to drive up salaries when competing for hires, and in part sets the market price.

I suspect that low European software salaries are just a function of low profitability of European software companies. e.g, spotify is (at best) around $44k per employee, SAP is $41k.

[0] https://fortune.com/2020/08/24/apple-microsoft-facebook-amaz...

8 days ago by comp_throw7

This is the correct answer. To put it another way, US companies are more productive (in the economic sense) than EU companies, and that gap is even wider for tech companies (& those that rely heavily on employing software engineers). Putting aside the question of whether EU companies have higher overhead per employee (probably true on average), they also derive significantly less value from their employees. This is the same effect which explains why the few "big" tech companies in otherwise low-paying regions will pay above local market rates (e.g. Shopify, Spotify, etc).

8 days ago by fy20

Reading your comment gave me a thought... maybe a better way of looking at the difference in salaries is that living in the EU is better value for money than living in the US.

In pretty much all of the EU, even in expensive cities like Stockholm or Dublin, if you earn a salary of €100,000, you can live a pretty decent life. Heck even on €50,000, you can do well in a lot of places.

Good luck doing the same in any of the top 10 most expensive cities in the US.

8 days ago by sparkling

> In pretty much all of the EU, even in expensive cities like Stockholm or Dublin, if you earn a salary of €100,000, you can live a pretty decent life.

Define "decent".

In the top tier cities in western EU countries, buying even a modest apartment that will house a small family will be a challenge on €100k (pre-tax!). It is certainly doable, but you will not be able to afford any other luxuries.

8 days ago by comp_throw7

There is a sense in which a non-trivial chunk of those productivity gains are eaten up by rent-seeking (in SF/NY, the high rents are literally rent-seeking in that they're the result of deliberate manipulation of local laws & regulations around housing & zoning for the benefit of existing homeowners). Even there, though, a single person can live quite nicely on 100k USD (or 120k USD, if going from 100k Euro), if they're ok with roommates. On 50-60k USD, yeah, that'd be trickier, though honestly it's manageable if you skip the top 5. You can have a very reasonable quality of life in, say, Los Angeles (as a healthy young person without dependents, yes) with that income.

8 days ago by softwaredoug

My sense is there's a larger US market than a pan-Europe market. If I go from German to France to Spain, I'm almost certainly not going to see the same grocery store chains. In the US, there are regional chains, but also a high proportion of homogeneity. In Europe you have strong national and cultural differences that lead to economies more isolated from the whole. In the US, there's regional differences, but I can order at a Starbucks pretty easily in all 50 states without breaking a sweat.

Maybe why US brands tend to get big in the US and then export overseas? US has a homogenous and large market, which brands can make a lot of money in and develop a solid profitable base. That's probably very hard to do in Europe.

8 days ago by midasuni

Language barriers - if all of Spain is talking about your product, that’s not going to seemlessly bleed into Italy and Germany as all the hype is in Spanish. Most people speak English as a second language, but they don’t speak German Italian Spanish French and English.

So many VC funded projects seem to be aimed at American cultural problems too, exporting the issues they are trying to solve and fighting non American wye to solve those issues.

8 days ago by fy20

> I'm almost certainly not going to see the same grocery store chains

That's not really true. It's fair to say that a lot of supermarket chains have operations only in a single country, but there are quite a few multi-country brands as well which aren't uncommon.

A few examples: Carrefour, Auchen, Lidl, Audi, Tesco, (Euro/Inter)Spar, Iceland, Rewe - and that doesn't include subsidiaries of the same company (e.g. ICA/Rimi).

8 days ago by Uberphallus

> It's fair to say that a lot of supermarket chains have operations only in a single country, but there are quite a few multi-country brands as well which aren't uncommon.

Actually it's fair to say most of the business is done by local chains, and Europe-wide operations are rather uncommon.

From your mentions, I'd only consider to be "Europe-wide" Carrefour and Spar. Carrefour is everywhere (though their market strategy changes a lot from country to country) and Spar's operations are kinda spotty but also kinda everywhere.

Auchan is everywhere, but in heavy decline because they're basically the Walmart (supercenter) of Europe and people don't like to drive to a hypermarket that much anymore. Almost their only profitable branch at the moment is their Chinese one.

Lidl and Aldi's presence is very spotty outside of Germany. Many countries copied their hard discount model so they have to fight with local companies that have a cultural edge (Lidl and Aldi tend to have tons of German products no matter the host country).

Tesco is a leader in the UK, then kinda common in Central-Eastern Europe, but then almost universally unknown in Germany-Austria-Italy and westward. There are more Tesco in Thailand than in the whole of Continental Europe, to put it in perspective.

Rewe is just in Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe (under different names and with wildly different marketing).

Iceland I never heard about, but it's overwhelmingly a UK operation from a quick search.

From your mentions I'd take the wild guess that you live (or have lived) a significant amount of time in the UK ;)

8 days ago by oaiey

European Employee here: That is indeed correct. It has less to do with the capabilities of the people or the quality, but with the addressed market. I would argue that 90% of my software products are developed by US companies (e.g. MS Office, Android, iOS, Gmail, ... with only rare exceptions, eg. SAP).

The US dominates the software market (mostly for historic reasons but also for its unrivaled entrepreneur/VC/risk-taking management style) which sells it products everywhere in the world, earning much more on that way. And the remaining software products in Europe are acquired one-by-one (e.g. Skype).

Having said all of that: Being a software engineer in Europe is a privilege with a good income situation.

8 days ago by shandor

Keep in mind that those numbers are for the absolute top tech companies even in the US (and by extension, the world). Even in the PPE top 10, the last one Texas Instruments is ~40k less than the number 5.

It would be actually very, very interesting to see the PPE information for a more comprehensive set of companies in the US and EU tech sectors.

Or maybe it's me out of the loop and the six figure salaries are the norm in the US even outside the most profitable companies in the world?

Edit: welp, of course the data was linked in the article: https://tipalti.com/profit-per-employee/

Just picking companies randomly a little lower from the list, Qualcomm is 118k, Oracle 81k, Advanced Micro Devices 30k.

8 days ago by kodah

Europeaners seem to think getting by is just fine. They're happy that they're hyper educated, that their kids are going to be hyper educated, that their healthcare is paid for, and they get lots of vacation. Because you can't save, you are entirely dependent, in a broader sense, on the government's stability (I am not using this sentiment in a pejorative sense like some might.)

Americans want their fair share of the pie, which will always lead to certain people making more and others making less. Compensation is more than just money to us. It's vacation, stock, better healthcare, expanded education resources and benefits, buying programs, etc... This can be both good and bad. I suspect you can find an endless list of rosy and dark examples to draw from. Most Americans would like to think of themselves as quite independent from the government, whether they want to admit it or not.

The value in risk and reward versus security and stability is just different. It's okay that they're different too. Personally, I believe letting people leave the US without monetary penalties so they can pursue cultures that more match their own values is the solution. I once thought that having a system setup so that people could switch places between countries might be beneficial, one that augments the current immigration system.

8 days ago by benrbray

> Compensation is more than just money to us. It's vacation, stock, better healthcare, expanded education resources and benefits, buying programs, etc... This can be both good and bad.

I don't think this is the right take at all. They way I see it, Americans want to get rich so they have access to the same quality of education / healthcare and leisure time / stability that the average (western) European has by default. Americans fight for scraps.

For instance, look at the list of minimum annual leave by country [1], or countries by infant and under five mortality rate [2], or education rankings [3], or countries by traffic-related death rate [4].

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_annual_leave_b... [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_an... [3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_St... [4]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-r...

8 days ago by refurb

That explains the net flow of Americans immigrating to Europe and not the reverse.

8 days ago by benrbray

I assume you're being glib, since it's been mentioned elsewhere that more Europeans move to America than the reverse. In which case...

You're missing the point, which is that the higher baseline QoL means that it's better to be poor / middle class in Germany or UK than it is to be poor / middle class in the United States.

With regard to immigration rates, there are many factors to consider:

Yes, some small percentage of Americans can get lucky and make the jump from middle class to upper-middle- or upper-class, perhaps enticing Europeans who hope to get that high-paying SV job.

However, moving your entire life from one country to another requires a certain amount of social and financial security. The argument might be made (whether or not it's true--I don't know) that more Europeans move because more Europeans have the financial means to move, along with a quality education that enables them to outcompete domestic American talent. It might be that many Americans want to leave, but are trapped into staying for social / political / economic reasons (e.g. "if I leave, my elderly parents will have no one to care for them due to our expensive healthcare system").

So without further investigation, the inflow/outflow rates can't really be used to support either side of the argument, even putting aside that the number of people who leave their home country is peanuts compared to the number of people who remain.

8 days ago by esoterica

A larger fraction of Americans have a tertiary degree than almost all European countries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tertiary_...

> Personally, I believe letting people leave the US without monetary penalties so they can pursue cultures that more match their own values is the solution.

There are no monetary penalties unless you are both much wealthier than the average person and have substantial unrealized capital gains. The hard part is finding another country that will take you, not leaving.

8 days ago by username90

> A larger fraction of Americans have a tertiary degree than almost all European countries.

Not if you only count STEM degrees, then USA is far behind.

https://www.businessinsider.com/most-technological-countries...

I'm not sure why American's don't study STEM, you'd think they wanted to study something that pays off. But maybe it is the other way around, with government funded education they only offer STEM degrees since that is what the government thinks will pay off hence more people study STEM?

8 days ago by Bakary

Most people are made miserable by studying STEM. And if it makes you miserable, you are unlikely to get good enough at it to get the purported payoff.

8 days ago by kodah

> The hard part is finding another country that will take you, not leaving.

I am aware, which is why:

> I once thought that having a system setup so that people could switch places between countries might be beneficial, one that augments the current immigration system.

I've never heard of such an idea before, so I don't know what to call it, but this is the problem it was aimed at solving when I had the idea.

8 days ago by brianmcc

>> Because you can't save

Sorry that's nonsense. Tech remains in Europe generally very well paid compared to national averages, albeit just not stratospherically so like some (not even all) US areas/firms.

I'm sure there are of course still relatively poorly paid tech roles, but tech Europe-wide simply cannot be characterised as too ill paid to build savings!

8 days ago by oaiey

> Because you can't save, you are entirely dependent, in a broader sense, on the government's stability

Do not bet on your money when your government goes down. In the current situation (China raises, switching of federal reserves from the Dollar to a more diverse bucket, a US Capitol invaded), the dollar went down from its 100% safety in the 90s to a shaky 90% currently. And that can spiral quickly when something radical happens (like a coup) and the world stops trusting the US.

Just saying: I do not trust my bank account.

8 days ago by csomar

Imo, the US dollar will remain the world reserve currency and the safest thing as long as the US military remain the most powerful. Sure, EU politics could be more stable but they can't defend against threats (Russia).

Also, I don't think many people, countries and businesses are going to trust China. They have a bad track record especially in crypto (detaining CEOs, freezing money, etc...). Everybody else is too small to matter (ie: New Zealand, Emirates, etc...).

8 days ago by hobbescotch

I’m curious to read more about this currency safety metric. Where do you find this?

8 days ago by oaiey

Well, there is plenty of material on the federal reserves. The capability of the dollar to be so untouchable is because of that.

And to the fact that a currency is only stable as long as the country is: Well, I would say that 80% of the world population has experienced radical changes to their currencies and assets (inflation, complete devaluation, rebranding, coupling to other currencies, stock market crashes, ...) within their lifetime (for whatever reasons). Having a multi-generation-stable currency is the privilege of only a very few countries like the US, Canada, France or Germany. Looking at the history of a country will easily reveal a significant event in the last 50 years which included something destabilizing.

Even the mighty UK was crashed by a single investor (the infamous George Soros).

And again, my argument is limited to the following element: currency stability > country stability.

8 days ago by omeze

I might be biased by personal experience, but I think this has less to do with US regulation vs Europe and more to do with direct competition between tech firms’ equity value, notably late stage private companies and recent IPOs. A recent example is circa FB’s IPO, Google would always try to match or beat the other’s comp. Over the long term, you’re hoping that most of your wealth will have come from equity, not salary, if youre an engineer in SV. Senior engineers earn ~half their comp as equity grants even at public companies. Salary is simply a knob to adjust risk.

Theres an interesting sort of recursion where companies compete with others slightly earlier and slightly later than them, where the more mature company promises less risk (in the form of cash and equity $ value as of the last round raise) compared to the less mature company. This means that e.g. Stripe must offer comparable or higher salaries than a series B or C company, and slightly “less” equity compared to the less mature companies more risky but higher potential equity. So the salary floor is driven by very early upstarts, and companies are pressured as they mature to increase that floor or employees leave to other companies with the same salary but less equity risk.

So, 2 things: early companies must be able to grow (so their equity over the long term outpaces or matches larger companies) and early companies must be able to pay something close to reasonable salary (in SV this is usually ~70% salary of top of market, so 90k from a seed startup vs 130k from a FAANG). Basically, more companies need to be started and access to initial investment is a huge part of that.

8 days ago by ivan1783

Been working in Europe for about 10 years now with "low" wages as a Hardware Engineer (6 figures US). Sorry but America seems like a third world country compared with what we get here. I have: 35 days vacation per year, 35 hour work week, overtime pay, free education, childcare money each month, healthcare that wont bankrupt me if I lose my job, up to 3 years in parental leave (6 mo. paid), probably other things which I'm forgetting. No amount of money would make me go back to that dumpster fire that is America.

8 days ago by artemonster

What is a salary range for a hardware engineer? Can you shed some light, just a rough number?

8 days ago by ivan1783

I work at a unionised company, our union is called IG Metall. You can google the EG (entgelt) levels - engineers range from EG14-17 + an additional % each month (depending on your productivity range from 10-25% of brutto on top) + we get 14 salaries instead of 12 (roughly - union agreement). https://www.igmetall.de/download/docs_MuE_ERA_Entgelte_Juni2...

8 days ago by artemonster

I always was confused when somebody told me exactly like you did. These levels are inconsistent across different lands. How much brutto is that practically? My calculations are 75-90k, but this is a huge spread :) Anyways thanks for the insight!

8 days ago by hgretg3443

Only a very few developers in Europe have 35 hour week and many have to do unpaid overtime.

8 days ago by trcollinson

Do you mean a particular part of Europe? I only ask because there are more factors than salary. I have friends who have moved to work in France, Norway, and Germany. They do make markedly less than I do on my US salary. However, they also get:

* Substantially more actual vacation time

* Substantially cheaper and yet similar health, dental, and vision coverage

* Less risk/stress associated with job security

* A very similar job market

I don't imagine this is the same in every country in the EU, just as technical job markets are different in the US. But working in the US Tech Sector isn't the panacea of work related issues.

8 days ago by marcinzm

>* Substantially more actual vacation time

This depends on the company, last startup I worked at gave me around 6 weeks of vacation per year not counting holidays. Of course I got paid less than FAANG but still better than Europe even without the equity.

>* Substantially cheaper and yet similar health, dental, and vision coverage

I have heard a lot of people in Europe (UK and Germany) complain about issues with getting health coverage for non life threatening issues unless they also had private insurance. No idea how many companies pay for that in Europe.

>* Less risk/stress associated with job security

My bank account is my job security. I don't think I ever was worried about job loss after a few years of building up savings.

8 days ago by trcollinson

I guess my point on vacation is more around the culture of using it. As a senior level engineer/architect with maybe a small team leading role, when was the last time you took a solid 2 week off without anyone calling you for work? Heck, look at the number of unlimited PTO companies out there where employees never take a day. Just as an example.

The experience my friends have in the EU seems to be pretty good over all with healthcare. The US healthcare system give fantastic results at a phenomenal and often strange price. It's a trade-off I'm sure.

I agree that having savings helps. And I have quite a bit of savings. But I still wouldn't feel comfortable being laid off .

Over all I'm here in the US and I love it. But I'm pointing out that there is give and take to everywhere.

Also everyone keeps talking about working for FAANG but.... The vast majority of US engineers don't work for them.

8 days ago by marcinzm

The VP of Eng at my current job routinely takes a week off where he is utterly unreachable (I believe he literally went to amish country last time). The same applies to the rest of the engineering team. It's been the same at my previous two companies as well. No, it's not the norm at companies but there's plenty where that's the case.

In my experience, the US is a place where little is given to you but you can get a lot. But you cannot take anything for granted. If you value vacation then you need to grill potential employers on that point and be willing to take a job that pays less. Most people value money so if you value something different you need to be proactive about getting it.

8 days ago by mciancia

> Also everyone keeps talking about working for FAANG but.... The vast majority of US engineers don't work for them.

True, but since FAANGs have offices all over the world, employ a ton of people and doing market research for salaries they should offer, it might be a pretty good idea to look at them and compare what they pay per country to see disproportions

8 days ago by sokoloff

I suspect a lot of us just got back from two weeks off. Dec 19 though Jan 3 (inclusive) for me.

8 days ago by refurb

Obviously it’s a personal choice as to what’s important, but the salary difference between the US and EU is still larger than any of the financial benefits to being in the EU.

Getting 6 weeks of vacation instead of 3? I’d still rather take the extra $150k. Having to shell out $15k for healthcare each year? I’d still take the extra $150k.

8 days ago by trcollinson

I'm pretty much at the top end of the salary range where I live. I don't make an extra $150,000. I make a sizable amount. But outside of a few niche places and a few niche companies in those places, people aren't making an extra $150,000 in the US.

8 days ago by undefined
[deleted]
8 days ago by bashwizard

The vast majority of SWE in the US doesn't even make $150k/year so yeah, good luck with that $150k extra.

Last time I checked the average salary for SWE in the US was roughly $110k.

8 days ago by Jyaif

In 3 years in the US you earn significantly more than in 5 years in France, so the vacation and health coverage arguments do not hold, unless you have an expensive illness (>30k$ per year). The job security on the other hand is very real, so if you want to coast at your job, europe is the way to go.

8 days ago by trcollinson

I make pretty good money as a consultant. Last year I had 180 hours of saved vacation time (4.5 weeks). I gave up 115.5 hours of that on January 1 because I didn't use it. I expect I will lose a similar amount on next January 1st. I did get 6 federal holidays off. I used a bit of vacation to also take the day after Thanksgiving, the day before Christmas, and New Year's Eve off.

I paid $8400 in insurance premiums for my insurance. I also added $5200 in pretax to my HSA account which I used.

I paid about 30% to taxes.

I'm not complaining. I'd just like to point out that my high salary (which is not > $200,000) comes with some costs.

8 days ago by iso1631

$200k is £146k

I've seen mid-level tech jobs in London banks for £146k which come with 34 days off including state holidays like new years day, christmas, etc

£146k for a full time contractor on 226 days a year isn't that much at all - £650 a day, which is in the "Senior developer" range [0]

With 30% tax in the US and the cost of health insurance, that would be $68,400

For a staff employee on £146k (which is quite achievable in finance), taxes would be 39.5%, or $79k in tax [1] (there's also local property tax, but that's in the ballpark £1k-3k a year depending on the size of your house). Tax could be potentially lower as a contractor if you're clever about distributing your income, but I know they've been clamping down on some avoidance schemes.

No idea what a HSA account is, I guess some form of pension plan? That tends to come off pre-tax.

[0] https://www.itjobswatch.co.uk/contracts/uk/senior%20ui%20dev...

[1] https://listentotaxman.com/146000

8 days ago by foogazi

I don’t get this. As a consultant do you get time off? If so why didn’t you use your vacation time? Why not take December off?

Did working those extra weeks mean more value to you?

8 days ago by undefined
[deleted]
8 days ago by ingvul

> In 3 years in the US you earn significantly more than in 5 years in France, so the vacation and health coverage arguments do not hold, unless you have an expensive illness (>30k$ per year).

Care to elaborate? Especially the part about vacation. Do you mean that US developers will retire early than their European counterparts because they are earning more in average and by doing so will enjoy more free time? I'd rather prefer to enjoy my free time when I'm in my 20s and 30s than when I'm in my 40s, 50s, etc.

The part about the health coverage: well, that's the thing, you never know if you'll deal with expensive or rare illness... so the European way of health coverage is worth it.

8 days ago by novok

In the US as a software developer you can and do get more vacation than the US norm, so keep that in mind.

8 days ago by ergocoder

There is absolutely no way to get 500k/year from being just an engineer in Europe.

I recall the React creator's base salary is 100k/year in London, and he works at Facebook.

8 days ago by ingvul

The average salary for a Software Engineer is $107K per year in United States.

The average salary for a Software Engineer is $66K per year in Germany (~61% less).

Source: indeed and payscale.

I always find a bit funny when US devs in HN talk about getting salaries above $200K/year... when the average US dev gets half of that. (I find it funny because everybody here thinks we are above the average dev level and can get a job at Facebook/Google/Amazon/etc... which is statistically incorrect).

8 days ago by quantumofalpha

> There is absolutely no way to get 500k/year from being just an engineer in Europe.

Proprietary trading shops in London at the top end or L6+ at Google Zurich can pay that in total comp.

> I recall the React creator's base salary is 100k/year in London, and he works at Facebook.

And what about stocks? There should be at least another 100k in them. Facebook is a publicly tradable company, its RSUs are as good as cash, unlike startup paper money.

8 days ago by slap

For reference, Dan Abramov's tweet regarding his salary in London :

https://twitter.com/dan_abramov/status/1228454264915271683

8 days ago by cmarschner

It is absolutely possible at FAANG companies (eg partner level at MS, principal level at G) and other publicly traded (US) companies or startups. Most of it is in stock.

8 days ago by topkai22

I unfortunately don’t have much perspective on software development on Europe, but one of the differentiators I’ve observed in the US between high salary SWE jobs/regions and lower SWE jobs/regions is that engineered in the higher categories are considered a core part of the business and are deeply integrated across the business. The engineers sit closer to and interact more with the “money people” than in companies where there might be a layer of analysts or business program managers, etc... As a result, engineering and computing at permeated throughout the business.

This often makes these companies more agile (the cycle times for requirements and feedback are shorter) and seems to make the business more willing to pay for engineering talent generally (as the decision makers see the value or are former engineers themselves.)

This is easier in some industries than others - consumer internet and commercial software companies will tend to organize more like this then health care, for example.

So I guess my answer would be ensure your software engineers aren't just doing software, but helping define the businesses

8 days ago by LogicWolfe

This explanation does a great job of describing what I've seen in Australia. I moved here from San Francisco after working at several startups including a long stint at Airbnb. I've been consistently stunned by how peripheral software is to businesses here. In the bay area organizations are structured around how they build technology and see it as a key point of competition. Here it's viewed as a cost center and usually outsourced to consulting firms who integrate some semi-generalized third party solution.

This isn't universal, there are startups here that "get it". But it's ubiquitous in large companies that have money, and that drives the salary market.

It seems inevitable that this will change in time either by the old guard catching up or new companies displacing them. I think one of the key driving forces behind this could be the return home of people with experience from SV style companies. As they join companies or start their own they are likely to advocate for approaches that more strongly couple the organization to its technology.

In the Canadian startup circles I once inhabited this was a broadly accepted idea. Seeing people move to the US for high paying tech jobs was generally celebrated, because there was an expectation that many of them would eventually return and be a boost to the overall ecosystem.

8 days ago by dbetteridge

This rings true so hard that it's painful.

I previously worked for a large consulting firm and in the Australian side the software arm was seen as 'just another billable unit' even though we built software primarily for internal engineers to use, this has some nasty side-effects (wasted time/money on busywork, inability to do useful work without 'proving usefulness' first).

The London arm was much more of a 'startup' focus, billing time was second to doing good work and delighting clients (internal or not).

I'm now at a London startup that 'gets it' and when I inevitably move back to Australia I'll be taking these learnings back with me and hopefully be Senior enough to try and encourage change in whichever company I end up in (assuming it is needed).

8 days ago by mlinksva
8 days ago by xyzelement

This is a pretty simple topic if you have a good understanding of what enabled developers to pull in large comps, and what kinds of employers pay such comps. I comment on comp threads on HN frequently and don't want to rehash my entire advice, but I can illustrate one example that can be generalized to Europe and America.

Consider two hypothetical employers:

Employer 1: - We want to hire only the best. - We expect people to care about the company and act like owners. - We expect people to flex in and out of different roles. - We fire underperformers.

Employer 2: - We state exact technical qualifications for our roles. - We hire anyone who adequately meets the qualifications. - We don't expect people to do anything not in the job description. - We don't expect people to care about the company, it's just a job. - We never fire anyone.

I hope it's clear that you can make a lot more money at #1 than #2. #1 may be a FAANG and #2 may be your state's Motor Vehicles department. I also hope it's clear that #2 sounds very mainstream European in its attitude towards work while #1 oozes American exceptionalism.

In short, there's no way to raise comp without employers competing for talent but that would basically mean a complete change in employer/employee expectations.

So what happens to European developers who are good/aggressive enough to work for a place like #1? They find it in London and New York.

For what it's worth I am a dual EU/US citizen living in NYC, and my previous job took me a lot to our London office which was primarily staffed with European developers who left Europe exactly for the reasons I described.

8 days ago by inflagranti

Except salaries in London are not at all competitive with US especially if you factor in cost of living, unless you get into Fintech.

8 days ago by xyzelement

What do you mean "except?". That's exactly what I am referring to - high expectations employers who compete for too talent.

8 days ago by 2rsf

#2 is definitely not the norm in Sweden, and we do have a lot of startups.

People leave for higher salaries and broader opportunities since after all Sweden is small and isolated, but not lack of challenges

8 days ago by throwawayzRUU6f

In my experience, the share of employers with culture like 'Employer 1' who pay like 'Employer 2' is much higher than the amount of all-around 'Employer 2's.

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