Revealed: French workers will clock off four years before Brits

When French workers have downed their tools and headed to the beach after 35 years of hard work, the Brits will still be slogging away for a few years more, new stats have revealed.

Revealed: French workers will clock off four years before Brits
Photo: AFP
In 2016, a 15 year-old in France could expect to spend on average 35 years of their life working, according to new figures from the European Union statistics office (Eurostat).
This compares to an EU-wide average of 35.6 years, showing that French workers don't perhaps have it as easy as their reputation suggests. 
But they still won't spend as much as their lives slogging it out as the Brits will. Over the English Channel workers will on average spend 38.8 years of their lives toiling away. In Germany the figure is 38.1 years.
While workers in France can retire at 62 and claim a state pension (if they have paid enough contributions) while in Germany and the UK it is 65 and will soon rise to 68 and 67 respectively.
The 'duration of working life' study measures the number of years a person, aged 15, can expect to be active in the labour market, either employed or unemployed, throughout their life.
And it might come as a surprise to some that out of all the EU nations it's the Swedes who dedicate the most of their lives to their jobs, with an average working life of 41.3 years. 
To put that in context Swedes on average work for 10 years more than their Italian counterparts. 
However spare a thought for workers in Iceland, which is not in the EU. Up in the land of volcanoes and geysers, workers will put in 47.4 years of work during their lives.  
The average number of years spent working by population. Eurostat. 
France, however, where on Thursday there was a second day of mass protests against French President Emmanuel Macron's labour reforms, sits right in the middle of the European average along with neighbouring Spain. 
According to the study, the French also falls short of the German average where people put in 38.1 years of work, but are ahead of Belgium and Italy, where people work 32.6 years and 31.2 years, respectively. 
The study shows that when it comes to the average number of years spent working, the EU can be divided into three groups. 
At the top, along with Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland (included despite not being a member of the EU), where people work an average of 40 to 44.9 years of their lives. 
In the second category – which includes France, Portugal, Spain, Germany, the UK and Ireland – people work between 35 and 39.9 years. 
Finally, countries where people work less than 35 years include Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia. 
“The most important distinction between these three groups is the number of women who work,” economist Hippolyte D'Albis told Le Figaro. “In the northern countries of Europe, women are very much a part of the job market, which raises the populations' overall number of working years.” 
Another factor is the number of older citizens who work. However, if you restricted the study only to include men, we would find that the general difference between European countries would be fairly stable.”
But while the French might work as many years as the average European, when it comes to how many hours they put in in a year, it's a different story. 
In 2016, The Local reported on a study indicating that the French work fewer hours than any other European country.
That study showed that full-time salaried workers in France put in 1,646 hours in 2015, which amounted to 199 fewer hours than the Germans, 130 fewer than the Italians, and 228 fewer than the Brits.
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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.