How France plans to finally crack rising unemployment

French President Francois Hollande will speak to trade unions and business leaders on Monday to detail the measures he plans to introduce to cut unemployment.

How France plans to finally crack rising unemployment
People queue at an unemployment office in France. Photo: AFP
He pledged to spend more than €2 billion ($2.2 billion) on a package of measures to fight France's stubbornly high unemployment, saying France was in “a state of economic emergency” and needed new measures urgently.
Unemployment, which stands at around 10 percent or 3.57 million people in the eurozone's second-largest economy, was the “only issue which ranks above security for the French people”, the president said.
Hollande said France needed to “increase the pace of reforms” and innovation was “key” to getting people back to work.
“France must also increase training, education and the level of qualifications of its workers,” he said.
The French economy has suffered after the jihadist attacks in November that killed 130 people and led to reduced growth in the fourth quarter.
Hollande has hung the success of his presidency on cutting rising unemployment in the country.
He said he would not stand for re-election in 2017 if his government didn’t manage to get unemployment down in time.
The French government’s effort so far have hinged on the Responsibility Pact, which was basically cutting payroll charges in the hope companies will step up recruitment.
His second move was a package of reforms aimed at opening up France's closed economy, including extending the number of Sundays per year when stores can open their doors.
But so far they have failed to reap any rewards.
Here is a closer look at Hollande's plan. 
Reform of employment tribunals
One of the main problems identified with France’s labour markets is numerous and never-ending labour disputes that employers end up in when they try to fire a member of staff.
Many say the fear of spending two years in an employment tribunal is a major turn-off for smaller companies, who are therefore more likely to hand out temporary contracts rather than permanent ones.
In an attempt to fix this Hollande will promise to the time-limit for an employee to lodge a complaint of unfair dismissal, which currently stands at two years after they were fired.
And secondly the government wants to cap the amount of damages that can be handed out to an employee who was found to have been fired “without just cause”.
This idea had already been put forward in a previous set of reforms, but was rejected at the last minute because a plan to have different limits for employees in bigger companies was deemed unconstitutional.
Financial incentives for hiring 
In a bid to encourage employers to hire more staff, Hollande plans to offer a “hiring bonus” to small businesses. 
The plan is to give somewhere between €1,000 and €2,000 per worker who is hired with a salary of up to 1.3 times the national minimum wage.
The aim is to kick-start hiring by offsetting the social security contribution costs that may scare off employers, with Hollande's team deeming it to be much quicker than changing France's social contribution laws for low paid employees.
Laurent Berger, head of France's largest French trade union confederation CFDT, told French media that he's “not a fan at all” of the plan, which he thinks will prove to be too expensive.
Improve training for the unemployed
Hollande has already promised additional training schemes for some 500,000 unemployed people in 2016, the details of which will become clear on Monday. 
Employment Minister Myriam El Khomri has said that the training schemes will target low-skilled workers, and will especially focus on growth sectors such as digital and environment.
The budget for training has been extended by €80 million in 2016.
This year's measures will cost €2 billion, which Finance Minister Michel Sapin said would be “compensated in full” by savings from elsewhere. Hollande promised that the measures would not be financed by tax rises.
A recent poll found that the majority of the French didn't think the emergency plans would work, with 77 percent of respondents saying they didn't think it would lower unemployment at all. 
Simplify qualifications
The president like his economy minister Emmanuel Macron has recognized that in many cases in France, requirements for qualifications actually hinder employment.
“Qualifications can form barriers especially when they bear no relation to the tasks performed,” said Hollande.
For members


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.