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Jobless man sets himself on fire outside job centre

An unemployed man died on Wednesday after setting himself on fire outside a job centre in the city of Nantes in western France. It is believed he committed suicide because his benefits application was rejected.

Jobless man sets himself on fire outside job centre
Photo:The Local

 The 43-year-old died from his wounds at the scene despite efforts by the emergency services to save his life, Ouest France reported.

The employment agency, named Pôle Emploi in French, at Nantes Est remained closed on Wednesday and police were on the scene.

It is not yet clear what drove the man to set himself on fire but it has been reported that he was angry that he believed he was entitled to unemployment benefits and he was angry that his application had been rejected by the agency.

The man sent a letter to several local journalists on Monday warning them of his intention to set himself on fire this week, French media reported.

A 51-year-old jobless man had also burnt himself to death near Paris in August. In October 2011, an unemployed man held hostage the directors of a job centre in Paris. He wrote to the media saying he could no longer cope with being unemployed.

"The system needs to change"

Philippe Baot from CGT Chômeurs, a branch of the CGT trade union which fights for the rights of the unemployed told The Local the "inhumane" benefits system and its rules had caused the man's break down.

"This man should have been given money by the Pôle Emploi because he had been working but the staff stuck to the rules and those rules caused this incident. They need to change.

"The system is too complicated and its inhumane. The Pôle Emploi has cut relations with those seeking jobs. Everything is done on the phone or internet which excludes a lot of people," Baot added.

The number of unemployed has risen steadily in France over the past 20 months, and could soon reach the high record high set in January 1997 of 3.2 million. Last year the rate broke the symbolic 10 percent barrier and at the end of last year it was at its highest rate in 15 years.

Baot believes many unemployed people are being left behind as the crisis deepens.

"Distressed unemployed people come to see us all the time. We are not talking about homeless people, these people are just out of work. They feel totally excluded, its a form of social suicide.

"The government needs to reform the benefits so it's managed better and its less complicated," he added.

Labour Minister Michel Sapin expressed his condolences over the "horrifying" act while the state employment agency said it had "looked into possible solutions" to help the man.

French President François Hollande has vowed to stop the jobless rate from rising by the end of 2013 and has declared this year "the great battle for jobs".

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WORKING IN FRANCE

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

Age

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

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. 

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