- the connoisseur's guide to France
Job opportunities in France
page was originally written before Brexit
and before the Covid
: In the second half of 2021
, the French economy
rebounded significantly from the doldrums caused by covid; the IMF
forecasted growth of 6.75% in France in 2021, followed by 3.7% in 2022,
bringing the French economy back to above pre-Covid levels by the
middle of 2022.
Back in 2019, before Covid struck, there were several
sectors in France with labour shortages : these included paramedical
services, services in hospitality, some sectors of the IT market which
are very short of skilled employees, and parts of the food industry.
For UK entrepreneurs or individuals
wishing to move a business to France, or set up on their own in France,
the formalities are.... formal – but not as bad as in many other
countries. the Expatica
website has a good article on setting up a business here
In many cases, the biggest stumbling block for
foreign citizens wishing to set up or work in France is the language
. Funnily enough,
the working language in France is French, and while it is possible to
get by in English in some corporate environments, an ability to get by
in everyday French will be a pre-requisite in most cases. An ability to
integrate into French life and culture is also important.
But working in a different country is not just
about the work environment, financial costs and rewards and the
administrative burden related to the work context alone. Lifestyle
considerations are important too; so while taxes in France may seem
high, the reason they may seem high is that they pay for France's
extensive welfare state and its generally good public services,
including high quality transport infrastructures, good schools
virtually free university education. And for people wanting to get away
from the pressures of overcrowded cities in Britain or the Netherlands,
provincial France has a far more relaxed tempo of life, and masses of
In late January 2021, Britain's Observer
reported how a British cheese exporter had decided to open up a packing
and distribution unit in France, in order to have a base in the EU.
With post-Brexit red-tape and charges causing havoc and huge extra
costs for thousands of small exporting companies in the UK,
is sure to be joined by others in the same
for working in France – either on a short-term basis
permanently – depend very much on two key factors; a) the
state of the
labour market, and b) the nationality of the job-seeker.
The Labour market
The French labour market is traditionally plagued by relatively high
levels of unemployment (compared to comparable economies); so finding
work in France, even for those who have the skills and documents
required, is not always easy. France's unemployment rate in 2019 is
around 8.8%: it is marginally above the EU average, is falling very
slowly, but is a
higher unemployment rate than in Belgium, Germany or the UK, though
than in Spain (Figures from Eurostat
Notwithstanding, there are sectors in which there are plenty of
vacancies, notably hospitality catering and even IT.
Average annual wages in France are lower than in the USA, Germany, the
Netherlands or Scandinavia, for example, about the same as the UK, but
higher than in southern or eastern Europe. However income inequality in
France is less than in the UK Germany or the US so the difference in
wage or salary levels between France and the UK tends to be less
at the lower end of the scale than it is for high-paid jobs.
top end of the salary scale in many professions (including teachers,
doctors, bankers) is quite a bit lower in France than in the UK or the
US, though for jobs lower down the hierarchy there is less difference.
As a concrete example, a 2014 report from the OECD
indicated that the top
annual salary for a University Vice-chancellor (President) in France
was 101,000 €, compared to a top Vice-chancellor's salary of 611,000 €
in the UK (Oxford) and an average university Vice-chancellor's salary
of 382,000 € in the USA.
b) Nationality criteria
(people with a passport issued by a European Union member state); in
most cases, your rights to look for a job or start working in France
are the same as those of French nationals, except for jobs in public
administration, where French nationality may be required. For many
jobs, a good mastery of the French language will be required.
(including British, Americans, Australians, Chinese, etc.); the right
to work will
normally depend on obtaining a residence permit (carte de
or a temporary resident's card for students. This goes for non-EU
nationals married to French nationals, if they have not sought and been
granted French nationality, and for all other non-EU nationals. Once
the necessary residence card has been obtained, the right to work is
the same as that of a French citizen – though an ability to
French may be demanded. For some temporary residence permits,
territorial restrictions may apply.
In spite of Brexit, the bush telegraph suggests that France is unlikely
to close the door on British nationals if they want to
set up a business in France or take on work in places or sectors where
there is a skills shortage. However, in January 2021 the situation is
completely unclear on account of the impact of the Covid crisis on the
labour market in France, as in other countries. A true picture is
unlikely to emerge before the end of 2021, once things get back to a
sort of normal.
The main ways to find employment are through local media (particularly
free small ads papers) and through local job centres, known either as
the ANPE (pronounced Are Enn Pay Euh), the old name, or the local "Pole
Emploi", the new name. Employers should require proof of
and proof of your right to work; they should also provide a written
contract, even for temporary employment. You may need to open a bank
account in France, since most employers like to pay all salaries and
wages by bank draft or by cheque. This is obligatory for any employee
earning over 1500 € a month.
Social Security (French national
health service) contributions
As an employee with a French work contract, you will find that your
take-home pay is about 10% less than your gross pay. This is because
social security contributions (covering your right to health
retirement, unemployment benefit and other advantages) will have been
deducted. Income tax will not have been deducted, as French
income-tax is not deducted at source. As an employee, you
request a Social Security number, by contacting the local Social
Security office (Caisse primaire d'assurance maladie); while your
definitive number is being prepared (the administrative process takes a
couple of months), you should be given a temporary number, allowing you
to benefit fully from subsidised health care, sickness, injury and
other social security rights.
There are two main types of employment contracts in France, temporary
contracts (known as CDD - contrat à durée
déterminée) and open-ended
contracts (CDI - contrat à durée
indéterminée). Most new jobs come in
the form of CDD; at the end of a CDD, the employee's contract is either
terminated, or renewed.. A CDD can, in theory, only be renewed once,
and the total duration of employment cannot exceed 18 months. Employers
who want to keep employees for longer are obliged to sign a CDI.
However, since employees on a CDI are hard and expensive to lay off,
even in the event of economic downturn, most employers try to
keep new employees on CDD for as long as possible, and many
(including public service employers, i.e. the French state) flout the
law in this matter.
The third type of work contract is the
"seasonal labour" contract, limited to sectors in which labour
requirements depend entirely on seasonal factors. This type of contract
is very common in the tourism and agricultural sectors.
Until 2009, setting up as self employed (entreprise individuelle) in
France was an expensive, flagrantly unjust, and complex process,
initially requiring flat-rate Social Security contributions based on
the assumption that you would earn a decent living. For those
struggling to make ends meet, life was hard, very hard. But since
January 1st 2009, things have got much easier, fairer and cheaper. The
(or self-employed entrepreneur scheme) is a one-stop pay-as-you-earn
self employment system, in which all tax and social security payments
due are based on actual earnings.
scheme is recommended for anyone wanting to set up as self-employed, as
long as annual income from this activity does not exceed
service activities (translator, decorator, plumber, IT consultant, etc)
or €80,000 from activities involving sale of goods.
covering healthcare payments, retirement, and
income tax, are 13% of gross income for activities involving sale of
goods, and 23% of gross income for service activities. Apart
these very attractive tax liability rates, this new scheme is extremely
attractive on account of its simplicity, compared to other systems for
which the self-employed must register with at least
three different administrations, including chambers of
their professional equivalents, the "URSSAF", and the "RSI" or an
for the official Autoentrepreneur website (in French).
However, anyone wanting to set
up a business with income levels above the autoentrepreneur threshholds
will need to register as a small firm, normally either as an EURL
(Entreprise unipersonnelle à responsabilité
limitée - single person
limited liability company) or as a SARL (Société
responsibilité limitée - private limited
company). To do so, it is
necessary to go through the appropriate local CFE (Centre de
des Entreprises) office; the CFE
allows prospective entrepreneurs find the appropriate CFE office, by
selecting firstly the nature of their business activity, secondly the
type of structure required, and finally the location.
A person is deemed to be fiscally resident in France, and thus liable
to pay income tax in France, if he or she is physically present in
France for 183 days or more in the year. That means half the year or
more. Income tax is payable on all income, wherever it is earned. Dual
taxation agreements between France and other nations, notably
nations and developed economies, allow a tax credit on income tax that
has already been paid in another country.
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