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.

The country has substantial agricultural resources, a large industrial base, and a highly skilled work force. 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.

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.

According to an APEC (Agence pour l'emploi des cadres, Employment Centres for Managers) survey, the starting salary in France for recent graduates is around € 24,220. Graduates from a business school earn an average gross annual salary of €28,700, graduates from an engineering school earn €28,840, and holders of university diplomas who studied for 4 or 5 years after their high school diploma earn €22,030.

There are three types of employment contracts in France: A temporary contract, usually through an agency, can be renewed one time as long as the total period of employment is less than 18 months; The Contrat à Durée Déterminée (CDD) is a fixed term contract that may not exceed two years and is often used to provide a ‘supposed' probationary period; and Contrat à Durée Indéterminée (CDI) wherein a 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 10 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.

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.

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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