Crackdown on French job seekers reveals abuse of generous benefits system

As France continues its crackdown on unemployment benefit fraud it has emerged that fourteen percent of job seekers are abusing a system already considered by many to be too generous.

Crackdown on French job seekers reveals abuse of generous benefits system
Photo: AFP
The country's national employment agency Pole Emploi has led a controversial crack down on job seekers in recent months to root out the fraudsters
The inspections found that out of 270,000 checks on job seekers, some 14 percent should not have been eligible. 
In May 2015, the board of directors at the Pole Emploi took steps to crack down on the number of people abusing the unemployment system, appointing 200 staff to carry out 12,000 checks every month. 
France's unemployment system is considered one of the most generous in Europe  – claimants can be pad up to €6,200 a month for two years – although most receive only €500 a month.
Successive governments have been been urged to make cuts as well as crackdown on those cheating the system.
Last year the the Cour des Comptes, the country's top auditors concluded that France's “assurance chomage” benefits system was simply not sustainable given record high unemployment and the system's soaring debt.
The system came under fire on Friday, with MP Damien Adam from French President Emmanuel Macron's La Republique en Marche! (LREM) party saying that job seekers use their benefits to go to the Bahamas on holiday, according to a report in Le Figaro
Photo: AFP
“When you are an employee and you see some people going on holiday to the Bahamas through unemployment insurance, it is legitimate to say that this system is topsy turvy!” said Adam. His comments provoked outrage from unions.
And he isn't the first LREM politician to condemn the system. 
In October, when asked about universal unemployment allowance, spokesman for the party Christophe Castaner said: “It's a form of freedom. But freedom means something. It is not about saying to yourself: 'Finally, I can use unemployment benefits to go on a two-year holiday'.”
In October, the number of people unemployed in France dropped by 1.8 percent, marking a drop of 64,800 in the number of people looking for work – the biggest fall since 2001. The news was seen as a boost for Macron's reforms. 
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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?

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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.