Typical French jobseeker paid €1,000 a month in unemployment benefits

France's unemployment benefits are known for being some of the most generous in Europe and while new figures show a few hundred people pick up over €6,000 a month, the average jobseeker is on just over €1,000.

Typical French jobseeker paid €1,000 a month in unemployment benefits
Photo: AFP
French job seekers are on an average allowance of €1,010 per month, a new study by Unedic, the organisation responsible for running France's unemployment benefits (l'assurance chômage), shows.
Although at the top end of the scale there were several hundred who were being paid €6,500 per month – the highest amount under the system which can pay up to 65 percent of a worker's previous salary..
The report, released on Tuesday, also shows that of the 2.51 million people claiming unemployment benefit in France, there were slightly more female chômeurs (51%) than men (49%).
Among those claiming the chômage, 1.75 million are jobless while 767,000 top up low salaries with the state benefit. 
And according to the study, it tends to be women rather than men in this position, with females accounting for 56 percent of claimants who also work. 
Jobless rate in France falls below 10 percent for first time in five years
Photo: AFP
The intention behind this topping up system is to encourage people to accept low paid positions while they are on benefits, and naturally claimants taking advantage of the scheme have a slightly higher average income of €1,240, according to the study. 
The research by Unedic also showed that around half of the people claiming unemployment benefits in France have recently come out of a temporary job contract (known as a CDD in France). 
In France, the majority of recruits are hired on CDD contracts, because they are cheaper, and companies are wary about handing out CDIs because staff on permanent contracts are harder to let go.
But it leaves many workers in France moving from one CDD to another with little job security. Without a CDI, it is also much harder to get a loan, rent a flat or buy a house.
In addition, Unedic's research showed that among the people claiming benefits more than half didn't have their Baccalaureat – the exams taken by most French 18-year-olds at the end of their time at high school (Lycee).
Around 500 people, which amounts to 0.02 percent of the total number receiving unemployment benefits, receive the maximum amount of benefits per month at €6,500. These are mostly those falling into the cadres employment category, meaning managers and executives, who will have been earning high wages.
Most workers are on much lower wages (€2,100 for men and €1,680 for women) so their benefits are much lower.
In 2016, The Local reported on the report by France's top auditors saying the country's jobless benefits needed cutting urgently and highlighted the maximum allowance – then €6,200 a month. 
And while the benefits system in France may sound very generous compared to its UK and US counterparts, the French are generally on a par with or even below some of its European neighbours according to several key benefit criteria which were assessed by L'Express in 2014.  
In 2014, The Local looked at these criteria which showed that in terms of eligibility, French workers need to have worked the equivalent of four months in the past 28 months in order to be able to claim unemployment benefits.
France is among the most generous in Europe when it comes to how long people can claim unemployment benefit. In France it's possible to receive unemployment benefits for up to two years, although if you are over 50 that period grows to three years, although under the principle of “one day worked, one day covered” some 41 percent of unemployed people qualify for the maximum duration.

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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.