Record French jobless rate is ‘under control’

Despite the number of unemployed people in France hitting a new record this week, with 3.31 million people now out of work, the country's labour minister has insisted the government has the jobless rate under control.

Record French jobless rate is 'under control'
French unemployment rates are "under control" a minister says despite new record being set. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

The number of unemployed in France jumped to a new record on Wednesday, to 3.31 million people registered in January, prompting the government to pledge anew that it would buck the trend this year after failing to do so in 2013.

The number of new job-seekers rose by 8,900, the labour ministry said.

If those holding part-time employment were taken into account the number of unemployed rose to 4.92 million, another record.

France's Minister for Labour Michel Sapinsaid on Wednesday that unemployment rate must drop by the end of 2014 and said the monthly figures were not that significant.

"There must be less unemployed people [in France] at the end of the year than at the start. Do not look atthe figures from month to month," he said.

"We are in control of the unemployment rate which was at terrible levels," he told France's I-Tele TV on a visit to the annual agricultural fair in Paris. "What count's are the trends, what happens month by month has no interest."

France's Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is under fierce pressure to tackle unemployment, had claimed in November he had met his electoral pledge to halt the rise in joblessness by the end of 2013.

But this has not happened.

Hollande last month asserted that unemployment had "stabilised" but admitted that "this is not enough."

Labour Minister Michel Sapin said Wednesday that "all the government policies were centred on a single target that is understandable for all: that at the end of this year there are fewer unemployed people."

He said there were fewer unemployed youths this year as opposed to 2013, adding that the government would now focus to improve the condition of the aged who were without work.

Sapin sought to defend the figures, arguing that 8,000-plus new registered jobless was better than the 30,000 recorded at the start of last year.

The new numbers came after the government opened talks to flesh out a "Responsibility Pact" proposed by Hollande that would offer businesses tax cuts in return for more job hires.

Hollande said there would be 30 billion euros ($41 billion) in cuts to payroll taxes and further efforts to balance public finances with €50 billion in spending cuts over three years to kickstart growth and revitalise the
eurozone's second economy.

Figures released by the EU this week suggested France would not meet its requirements to cut public deficit this year.

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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.