Seven key things to know about French unemployment benefits

Seven key things to know about French unemployment benefits
Photo: AFP
French unemployment benefits are known for being very generous, but there's a lot you need to know before you can go about claiming them. Here are seven things that will help you if you find yourself “sans emploi”.

The health crisis and repeatedly lockdowns are still taking their toll on employment rates in France – and elsewhere – with unemployment running at around nine percent.

Fortunately for the French, France has long had a reputation for providing some of the best unemployment benefits on the continent. But what does that actually mean in terms of how much, for how long, and under what conditions?

Here are seven key facts and figures you may not have known about unemployment benefits in France.

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Photo: AFP

1. Register within 12 months

In order to receive the standard unemployment benefit or ARE (allocation d’aide au retour à l’emploi), you need to register with the Pôle Emploi, France’s national unemployment agency, within 12 months of the end of your last employment contract

Once registered, job seekers must attend regular meetings with Pôle Emploi counselors and demonstrate their efforts towards finding employment, or they could lose access to their benefits. 

2. How do you qualify?

To qualify for benefits, it is only necessary to have worked for a total of four of the previous 24 months. However, the duration of benefits corresponds to the length of the last job contract, so someone who was only employed for 4 months, for example, will only be eligible for 4 months of benefits. The four month limit is also set to be increased to six months.

3. How long do they last?

Benefits can be paid out for up to 2 years for most workers, and even 3 years for those over 55, as long as their previous employment contract lasted at least that amount of time. The Netherlands is the only country in Europe to offer more time on the dole (38 months). 

4. How much do you receive?

Unemployment benefits in France are calculated as a percentage of your previous salary, rather than a flat rate.

Job seekers can receive up to €6,615 per month, as calculated according to a rather complicated formula that allots them somewhere in the neighborhood of 57 percent of their average salary during their last 12 months of work, up to a maximum amount.

Only 0.05 percent of beneficiaries receive the maximum amount, however; the average payout is €1,020 per month, and half of all recipients receive less than €860 monthly. 

After 12 months of unemployment, the rate is reduced and a new rule means that people under the age of 57 who previously earned more than €4,500 a month have their rate reduced after eight months.

Photo: AFP

5. Leave on good terms 

Benefit seekers generally cannot have left their last job of their own accord, given that unemployment benefits are intended for those who have lost their employment involuntarily (that means no telling your boss to shove it and then picking up a cheque from the state every month). 

However, there are exceptions, notably for those who have to move because of their spouse’s work or to better care for a disabled child.

And if you really hate your job in France then it’s important to leave on good terms, because if you have a CDI (permanent contract) the key when wanting to leave is to ask for a rupture conventionnelle. This means you’ll still be eligible for unemployment benefit despite leaving of your own volition. 

6. Perks for entrepreneurs

If you want to start or take over a business and can show the Pôle Emploi a solid plan, they will give you half of your benefits in a lump sum – while reserving the other half in case your enterprise fails. The unemployment agency will even provide you with management training and give you advice on your business plan.

7. What other benefits are out there?

The ARE is not the only aid available to the unemployed. Job-seekers who have been employed at least 5 of the last 10 years can apply for ASS (allocation de solidarité spécifique) once they have used all their ARE benefits. For more information on the ASS CLICK HERE.

Those with little or no income can also apply for the RSA (revenu de solidarité active), which can pay up to €550 per month and even be used to supplement the ARE or ASS. For more information on the RSA CLICK HERE.

In and around Paris, the RATP will give job seekers a free Navigo pass, so they won’t have to pay to get to job interviews. Many other cities offer a similar benefit.  And the CAF (caisse d’allocations familiales) will pay up to half of your rent in some cases, if you’re income is low enough and assuming your rent is reasonable.

Interested in learning more about French unemployment benefits, and whether you’re eligible to claim them? Click here

French words to know

Job centre – pôle emploi 

Unemployed – chômeur, chômeuse

Unemployment benefit – ARE (allocation d’aide au retour à l’emploi)

By Edward O’Reilly


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