French beauty queens in struggle for jobs

You might have thought that being crowned a beauty queen in France would offer you a one-way ticket to a bright future, but it seems that good looks will only get you so far.

French beauty queens in struggle for jobs
For France's beauty queens, it seems looks won't get you everywhere. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

Once the glitz and the glamour has faded away, it appears that Miss Bourgogne, Miss Brittany or Miss Pas-de-Calais struggle like the rest of us to find a job in the middle of an economic crisis and near record levels of unemployment.

One beauty pageant has become so concerned with the struggles of former contestants that they have organized a job fair to help the women find work. It is believed to be a first in France.

“These girls are only in the spotlight for a few days, sometimes only one evening. They lack networks and, contrary to what people might think, their physique does not open doors for them, it just gives them a little boost,” Sébastian Samier, one of the event organisers told French daily Le Parisien.

The forum or “Miss job-club” as it could be dubbed, was held this weekend in the northern town of Arras. It was organized by the regional committee of Miss Nord-Pas-de-Calais, which invited a host of companies from around the region to meet with potential employees.

French bank Caisse d’Epargne, holiday giant Club Med and recruitment agency Adecco were among the companies represented at the job fair.

“These girls have public relations skills and have matured by participating in the competition. To speak in front of a microphone at the age of 18, you need to be courageous,” said Samier. “Beauty is not their most important quality, that’s more their dynamism.”

The initiative has naturally won support from former beauty queens.

“Beauty can ruin your chances of getting a job as much as it can help them,” Laury Thilleman, Miss France 2011 told Le Parisien. “Recruiters say to themselves ‘she’s pretty but has she got a brain?'”

Beauty contests are taken fairly seriously in France where the annual Miss France pageant is contested by the winners of regional competitions.

Although regional winners might find themselves back in the queue at the job centre, whoever clinches the title of 'Miss France' is more likely to be seen relaxing in the boutiques of the Champs-Elysees.

For becoming Miss France, 2010 winner Malika Ménard won a car, the use of a Paris apartment for one year, and monthly net salary of €4000.

Marine Lorphelin, 19, crowned Miss France 2013, didn't do too badly either.  A sports car, a crystal crown and a trip for two to the paradise island of Ile Maurice, were just a few of the prizes she took home.

Lorphelin’s win was tainted, however, when a black rights group slammed the competition for producing a "white as snow" winner from a field it claimed was unrepresentative of the country's ethnic make-up.

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How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.