European Association Remuneration Report 2017

The new twenty-four page 2017 European Association Remuneration Report is dedicated to the 2,265 associations based in and around Brussels, which have a total estimated annual income of €2.9 billion and employ 13,400 people.

Ellwood Atfield Brussels specialises in the recruitment of Directors General and senior secretariat staff who typically lead policy, communications or regulatory functions. Therefore, this report focuses on compensation for the more senior grades where we have the most substantive data, including from a detailed recent poll of 210 secretariat staff.

The key finding of our previous remuneration analysis was that salaries in Brussels vary enormously. Again we found this to be the case with associations, across all levels of seniority. There are a number of new elements presented here, including job satisfaction. Notably, according to our 2017 study of senior staff in Brussels-based European associations, almost three-quarters reported being happy or very happy in their jobs.

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survey findings

Association Leaders

Whether salaried or independent, the DG of a European association statistically speaking on average earns €144,550 per year. Around one-quarter of DGs are employed as independents, with the rest operating as salaried employees of the association.

Although around half of independent DGs earn €120,000 up to €210,000, over 40% of Independent DGs we surveyed earn €210,000 – €350,000 per annum, with a fortunate few earning more than €350,000.

Of the salaried employee DGs, just over a quarter earn less than €100,000, almost 40% earn €100,000 – €160,000, and just over 30% earn €160,000 to €300,000 with only a very few earning higher amounts. Salaried DGs enjoy the highest amounts of benefits with the majority having meal vouchers, group pension plans, smartphones, private healthcare, car leases and petrol cards.

Policy roles

According to our research, the majority of Heads of Policy in trade associations are highly experienced, with almost 70% having between 10 and 20 years’ work experience since leaving university. Around 85% are salaried employees and 15% are self-employed. Almost two-thirds of Heads of Policy earn under €100,000, while only around one-fifth earn €120,000 to €200,000, with a fortunate few earning higher amounts normally as independents.

According to our research, 85% of policy officers in trade associations have less than 10 years’ work experience, and nearly all are salaried employees. The vast majority of policy officers or public affairs managers earn less than €80,000 per annum. The average salary for this category is around €45,000 with around 40% earning less than €40,000 per annum.

Communication roles

Interestingly, around two-thirds of Heads of Communications are women, and the majority are highly experienced with over 15 years’ of work experience. Around 70% earn less than €100,000 as a gross salary, and only 20% earn more than €120,000.

Communication managers are less experienced, with around three-quarters having less than 14 years’ of experience. Salaries are much lower, with the vast majority earning less than €70,000 per annum. The overall average salary for communications managers is around €55,000.

Ellwood Atfield is committed to improving the professionalisation of association leadership through our work, and our investment in pioneering research and educational activities. Ellwood Atfield won Best Association Supplier at The Association Excellence Awards 2017, in London. Since 2013, Ellwood Atfield has hosted the annual Association Leadership Forum in Brussels, attracting hundreds of association Directors General and leading figures within EU institutions and businesses. In 2014 we launched the Association Leadership Academy, the pre-eminent educational institution for leaders, members and secretariat staff of European associations. Through these insights and engagement, we hope to contribute to the pool of knowledge that helps association leaders run high-performing organisations and pursue rewarding careers.

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