Working in France




The French firmly believe in “work to live” unlike the Anglo-Saxon’s “live to work” culture. If you are accustomed to a fast-paced life, expect to see an extreme contrast in lifestyle in France.

France remains the world's sixth-largest economy with a GDP of $2.865 trillion. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) projections, the GDP in 2015 will grow by 0.09% which will rise to 1.2 % in 2016.

"Government paperwork in France is really slow. You have to be persistent if you have no news about whatever you’ve applied for: call daily if you have to, or it will never get done."- Wendy Hollands, Expat in France

Getting a job

The country has substantial agricultural resources, a large industrial base, and a highly skilled workforce. The service sector accounts for an increasingly large share of economic activity and is responsible for nearly all job creation in recent years. So if you have the skills and you speak basic French, your chance of landing and staying in a job is high.

"If you don’t speak French, it can be a nightmare, and even if you do speak French you have to be very persistent and patient. The French seem to thrive on paperwork - printing and stamping anything that they can."- Caroline Manson, Expat in France

While applying online is fast becoming the easiest way to search for a job, French employers expect applicants to handwrite the 'lettre de motivation' (application letter or cover letter). It is common practice in France to undertake a handwriting analysis.

"I need neither visa nor permission to live and work here. This is Europe, and I am European. All other necessary contacts with the state you do through the local Mairie."- Rod Fleming, Expat in France

Employment details

According to an APEC (Agence pour l'emploi des cadres, Employment Centres for Managers) survey, these are the starting salary in France for different levels of academic degrees:

  • Fresh bachelor's degree - € 24,220
  • Graduates from a business school - €28,700
  • Graduates from an engineering school - €28,840
  • Holders of university diplomas who studied for 4 or 5 years
    after their high school diploma - €22,030

There are three types of employment contracts in France:

  1. Temporary contract - Usually through an agency, can be renewed one time as long as the total period of employment is less than 18 months
  2. The Contrat à Durée Déterminée (CDD) - This is a fixed term contract that may not exceed two years and is often used to provide a ‘supposed' probationary period
  3. Contrat à Durée Indéterminée (CDI) - This contract is given to those hired on a permanent basis, specifying a 3-month probation period and a two and a half days holiday entitlements for every month worked, as per French Law. Women are also entitled to maternity leave, six weeks before giving birth and ten weeks after.

Employment contracts are usually in the French language. Although some employers may provide a translated one, please remember that only French-drafted documents or contracts carry legal weight.

"Our story to get residency is long and complicated with lots of mistakes on everyone’s part – the first one was issued a year after it expired. It should be easy but time-consuming. Be prepared, be organised and keep copies of everything in a separate folder – even if it’s copies of copies."- Katie, Expat in France

Work culture

The official French working week is 35 hours, but graduate degrees are often expected to work longer, with an extra seven days vacation as compensation. A guarantee of five weeks annual holiday is given to all French employees after working for their employer for a whole year. To encourage work and to increase work time, overtime work beyond the 35-hour workweek is exempted from income tax and payroll deductions.

"I have spent the better part of two years shuffling through many forms of international and government paperwork. The systems are complicated and French officials are not as warm and helpful as you might like in a stressful situation. It takes a lot of work, a lot of trips to official offices, and a lot of organization."- Elizabeth Vincent Roquoplo, Expat in France

The ANPE, (Agence Nationale Pour l'Emploi or National Employment Agency) details available jobs. On the other hand, the ASSEDIC, (Association pour l'emploi dans l'industrie et le commerce or Association for Employment in the Industry and Trade) pays unemployment benefit (should you be entitled to it) and helps with training and re-training. It is advisable to contact and register with the ASSEDIC.

While it cannot be denied that finding a job in France can be difficult, especially for a non-EU national, honing your linguistic skills and presenting documentation to validate your credentials could ensure that your future is bright in the city of lights!



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