France or Germany: The best country to work in?

With a group of employees in northern France having been left outraged after being given an ultimatum to either relocate to Germany or lose their job, The Local looks at which country is the best place to work - France or Germany?

France or Germany: The best country to work in?
Paris or Berlin, France or Germany, where's the best place to work? Photo: Glenn Moran/Flickr Berlin photo: Shutterstock

Around 50 employees at a firm in northern France face a life-changing dilemma. Choose between staying where they live and losing their job, or keeping their salaries and moving to Germany.

Workers at Vitrine Magique , which sells garden and household accessories, have to decide between leaving their homes in and around Croix, on the outskirts of Lille and moving to Aachen, western Germany. 

Understandably most members of staff are not too happy about moving across the Rhine. But perhaps if they weighed up the pros and cons of the two countries, they might have a change of heart.

The Local has taken a look at how the two countries square up when it comes to all things job related.

Parental leave

(Photo: AFP)


France recently introduced new rules around parental leave in a bid to boost equality, by encouraging fathers to take parental leave, as well as save millions of euros for the state (knowing that most fathers won’t take up the chance).

The current rules allow up to one year of parental leave, as long as it is split evenly between the mother and the father (six months each). If not then the mother is allowed up to a maximum of six months. For two or more children, the maximum is three years if the father takes one year. If not then the mother is limited to two years maximum. The state pays out €390 a month to parents on leave.

Mothers on maternity leave are entitled to 16 weeks on full pay – that normally covers six weeks before the birth and ten after.


Both parents come under the same system of “elternzeit” (parental leave) so mothers and fathers can be confident their jobs are protected by the law for as long as they like until their child turns three.

When it comes to remuneration, Gemany is far more generous.

The benefit is calculated at 65 percent of the parent's previous monthly salary, though it gets boosted slightly if they were earning €1,000 or less. Those with more young children also get a ten-percent (or a minimum of €75 a month) “sibling bonus”.

The total benefits are ring-fenced at a minimum of €300 and maximum €1,800 per month, while parents who were unemployed can also claim at least the minimum €300 a month.

For maternity leave mothers are entitled to full pay during the six weeks before, and eight weeks after, the birth, known as “mother protection time”.

Retirement age

(Photo: Jazz Beaunola/Flickr)


The French retirement age is set at 62 for both men and women although, after being elected in 2012, François Hollande introduced a swift reform that allowed those who entered the work place aged 18, to retire at the age of 60. 


The age of retirement in Germany is in a bit of a state of flux in that it is currently in the process of being raised from 65 to 67 for both men and women.

However last year Germany was criticized “for sending out the wrong signal” to the rest of Europe, by lowering the retirement age to 63 for those who have been in the workplace for 45 years, or since the age of 18. A ‘Flexi-pension’ was also introduced for Germans wanting to extend their career past 63 years old. 

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why France is better than Germany

Minimum wage

(Photo: Shutterstock)


In 2015 France saw a minuscule rise in its minimum wage of 0.8 percent. That means French workers on the SMIC, as the minimum wage is known will earn €9.61 an hour (compared to €9.53 in 2014). For someone working full time the monthly gross income on a minimum wage stands at €1,457.52 (compared to €1,445.38 last year).


The country resisted bringing in a minimum wage for a long time despite pressure for those on the left. It was eventually made part of a coalition agreement between Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union party and the Social Democrats after the elections in 2013. Germany’s first minimum wage was set at €8.50 per hour, across the country and came into force in January 2015. 

The wage does not cover interns, and trainees though.

Average Salary

France – According to Eurostat the average salary in France stands at €2, 430 but over the Rhine in…

Germany – the average yearly wage is around the €3,000 mark

Paid sick pay leave

(Photo: AFP)


Employers will pay their staff 90 percent of their salaries for the first thirty days of their illness and two thirds of it for another thirty days. Paid sick leave is calculated upon the employees’ years of experience. However employees who have worked less than a year in the company will not be entitled any kind of sick pay leave. The first three days of sick leave are normally not paid, although some companies do cover this period.

Parents are normally allowed three days paid leave per year if their child is sick.


In Germany, employers are legally required to provide at least six weeks of sick leave at full salary if the employee can present a medical certificate. After those first six months the employee will receive around 70 percent of their salary, which will be covered by statutory health insurance.

Parents are also allowed up to ten days paid leave each if their children are sick or 20 for single parents.




After a string of record unemployment figures in recent months, France finally saw a slight improvement in January, with statistics published on Wednesday showing 3.48 million people are currently claiming jobless benefits. The unemployment rate stands around 10.4 percent.


While unemployment continues to be a major issue in France, Germany on the other hand does not have the same problem. The most recent figures showed that the unemployment rate was 6.5 percent in January, down from 6.6 percent in December and the lowest rate since 1990.

Paid Holidays


French workers have a reputation for always being on holiday, or at least in August. Indeed, as well as the 11 public holidays in the year, full-time French employees are entitled to five weeks paid leave per year (25 days), although often they are not allowed to take any holiday in the first year of a job. Then there’s the RTT days for those who work over 35-hours a week, which can add up to a maximum of an extra 22 days off a year.


On average Germany has only nine public holidays in the year, but it often depends on what state you are in. Some like Bavaria have up to 13 public holidays a year. When it comes to holidays, the statutory minimum entitlement is 24 days, although thanks to collective agreements in some professions, the number of paid days off can reach 30.

by Priscillia Charles

Ten reasons why France is better than Germany

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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.