Hollande under fire as jobless total hits 3.26m

France's jobless total rose for the 24th consecutive month in April to reach a record 3.26 million, the country's labour ministry announced on Thursday. The figures provoked a stinging attack on the French president from his political rivals.

Hollande under fire as jobless total hits 3.26m
Hollande and Merkel. Photo: Odd Anderson/ AFP

The number of registered jobseekers in France, the eurozone's second-largest economy, rose by 39,800 in April to hit a record 3.26 million, the labour ministry said on Thursday.

April was the 24th consecutive month of rising unemployment, as Socialist President Francois Hollande struggles to revive an economy that fell into recession in the first quarter of 2013.

The rise, equivalent to 1,326 new jobseekers per day, represented a 12.5 percent increase over a year ago.

When the partially employed and jobseekers in France's overseas territories are included, the figure for April rose to 5.09 million registered unemployed.

"This negative trend will continue in the coming months before we manage… to reverse the unemployment trend at the end of the year," the ministry said in a statement.

The new figures provoked a stinging attack on the French president from leader of the UMP opposition Jean-François Copé.

"Francois Hollande is responsible for the situation," said  Copé. "He is as guilty as much by his action as his inaction."

  "There is nothing to anticipate any improvement in the short term and all forecasts point to a sharp increase in unemployment for the next two years," Copé said.

The UMP's former Prime Minister François Fillon also laid into Hollande saying France needed "shock therapy to escape the depression."

"The continued increase in unemployment is the result of a policy that has stifled productivity and demobilized French entrepreneurs and investors," Fillon added.

Hollande on Thursday pointed to "a lack of competitiveness" and low opportunities for youth as problem areas, speaking at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The pair vowed a united front to push for jobs, growth and reforms, including a full-time eurozone chief, as they met Thursday for talks in Paris.

"We want (Europe) to pay more attention to jobs, notably youth jobs, to move more quickly to put in place a banking union, to have more efficient economic governance, to have more harmonius tax systems and to impliment policies for growth and competitiveness," Hollande said.

"I think we are showing once again that France and Germany are able, not to impose our views but… to bring all Europeans together on the paths that we consider best," Hollande said.

Despite the figures Hollande said he was maintaining his longstanding pledge to create more jobs in France – one of the key promises of his presidential campaign last year.

"I am maintaining the objective, despite these figures, despite what they represent… for many French, I am maintaining the objective of reversing the unemployment trend before the end of the year," he told journalists.

France's unemployment rate hit a 14-year high of 10.6 percent at the end of last year, and the OECD has forecast that it will rise to 10.7 percent this year and 11.1 percent next year.

On Thursday, the CFDT – one of the country's leading unions – called for everyone to mobilise to reverse the trend.

"The evolution of the economic situation offers few short-term prospects but must make people react," said Veronique Descacq, deputy secretary general of the CFDT.

The main cause of unemployment in France remains the end of short-term contracts that have not been renewed by companies that are more and more reluctant to take on people on permanent deals.

Lay-offs only represent 2.6 percent of people registering as jobseekers.   

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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.