France rolls out new measures to get tough on jobseekers

France’s jobseekers will face stiffer rules in order to benefit from the country’s famously generous benefits system under plans outlined by the government to crack down on fraud and encourage more people to get back to work.

France rolls out new measures to get tough on jobseekers
Photo: AFP

President Emmanuel Macron vowed during his election campaign last year that he would make the benefits system fairer – including opening it up to entrepreneurs for the first time – but also warned that he would demand more in return.

His government this week unveiled the new rules it plans to include in legislation that will be presented to parliament later this year.

It will also triple to 600 by 2019 the number of staff monitoring jobseekers and add a further 400 by 2020, the labour ministry said after briefing union leaders on its plans.

Jobseekers who don’t play the game could see their benefits stopped for up to four months.

Currently a jobless person gets benefits that equal about 80 percent of the pay they earned at their last job (as long as they were not sacked or quit) – and the benefits, which can reach a maximum of €6,120 a month, are paid for two, and sometimes three, years.

On average, however, French job seekers are on an allowance of just over €1,000 per month.


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The current rules let them turn down all job offers that are not for work in the same field as they previously worked in nor in the same part of the country.

But under the planned new rules, the unemployed would be obliged to accept a new job that paid more than 80 percent of their previous wage.

Their benefits would be suspended for a month if they refuse two “reasonable” job offers, or if they fail to show evidence that they are actively seeking work.

After two job refusals they would also have to accept any employment offer at a salary higher than their current benefits.

But other currently applied sanctions will be eased or done away with. Not turning up for a scheduled appointment with Pole Emploi, the state jobs agency, would henceforth result in losing benefits for two weeks, as against the current two months.

And refusing to sign up for a training course will no longer be punished at all.

The hardline CGT union said it saw the reforms as a “general hardening” of the rules and it condemned what it said was “the government’s logic of suspicion towards the unemployed.”

But the government says the reforms are necessary to rein in the €33 billion that the unemployment benefits scheme costs a year.

Employers for their part complain that they cannot fill between 200,000 and 300,000 jobs, despite an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent.

Macron has already changed labour rules to make it easier to hire and fire staff, and is planning to spend 15 billion euros on providing job training over the next five years.

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?

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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.