Five reasons to set up a business in France

The British government is advising UK firms to avoid the worst effects of Brexit by setting up in the EU, but there are lots of other good reasons to start a business in France.

Five reasons to set up a business in France
The French government is trying to attract more people to start up their own business. Photo: AFP

While the pandemic and resulting recession has of course hit all businesses hard, 2020 was actually a pretty good year for start-ups in France.

So if you have a brilliant idea that you are convinced will make you the next Steve Jobs (or Bernard Arnault since we're in France), here's five reasons why you should start now.

1. The president wants you to (and might even fund you)

French president Emmanuel Macron has declared his ambition to rebrand France as 'the start-up nation'. France has not traditionally been seen as particularly business friendly with a strong culture of workers' rights which business owners have complained makes it difficult for them to expand or start up new enterprises.

Macron wants to change this and has begun the process of loosening some of the rules around new businesses. The sell-off of state assets including the lottery and Paris' airports are intended to create a €10 billion fund for entrepreneurs and start-ups – although this isn't up and running yet – while the recently-passed PACTE law aims to encourage start-ups – both by French people and foreigners.

Macron said: “I know France is an old country. But this is the beginning of a new dynamic, a new wave. And this where you must be. To invest, to work, and to invent.'' 

The president needs you. Photo: AFP

2. The social security system will pay you while you establish yourself

The year 2019 saw some big changes to the French unemployment benefits system, one of which is that employees who resign from their job in order to start their own business could be able to claim benefits for 15 months while they get their new enterprise off the ground.

There are some conditions to this – you have to have been an employee in France for at least five years – but the idea is to give people a safety net while they make the leap and set up on their own.

3. You can start small and then expand

The French 'micro entrepreneur' status is specifically designed for people starting off a business in a small way. By registering yourself as a micro entrepreneur (formerly known as an auto entrepreneur) you get access to a much simpler regime of both tax and business regulations.

There are some limits on the type of company that can be classed as a micro entrepreneur, but it's designed for companies whose yearly earnings do not exceed €170,000 for those re-selling goods or materials (micro-BIC) and €70,000 for those offering services (micro-BNC).

And if after a couple of years your business takes off and you exceed the micro entrepreneur threshold, you just need to re register as a company.

READ ALSO How to set yourself up as a micro entrepreneur in France

4. There are some innovative solutions to working spaces

The classic business trope is to start off the enterprise at your kitchen table. But if your home isn't suitable (most Paris apartments barely have space for a coffee table, never mind a table big enough to start a business from) there are an increasing number of workplace solutions that are good for new businesses.

The bigger cities in France like Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and Nantes all have lots of co-working spaces where you can rent an office by the month or even just a desk with a reception in order to get your businesses started. Paris has 'Station F' – a converted railway station that is now a shared workspace specifically for start-ups.

Many hotels have also begun hiring out their public spaces as meeting spaces, so you have somewhere to meet clients if you don't want to bring them to your home.

There is also an increasing trend of 'co-homing'. Generally used by freelancers, this involves people renting out space in their homes for people to go and do a few hours work there, thereby sharing the cost of utilities and providing some company – as working alone can be a lonely business. 

Station F, the Paris start-up campus created in a converted railway station. Photo: AFP

READ ALSO The new working trends in France for freelancers and small businesses

5. If you're moving to France, it might have just got easier

Another new development is the expansion of the French Tech Visa scheme. This visa type was originally created for French tech companies which were looking to recruit talent from overseas, but it has recently been broadened in definition to cover start-ups and any type of business deemed an “innovative firm”.

The French government is particularly keen to encourage tech start-ups and there are now 13 cities in France which have the French Tech label and which offer things liked shared workspace at a reduced cost to anyone starting their own technology enterprise.

If you're looking to relocate an existing tech business to France, the government is also keen to hear from you and has in fact launched a campaign targeted at British tech companies, hoping to lure them to France after Brexit.

And of course if your business involves providing goods or services within the EU, doing so from France rather than the UK avoids the regulatory headaches that British businesses are facing since Brexit.

READ ALSO 'Join the game' France makes bid to woo British worker after Brexit

Although these changes are all aimed at making life simpler for business owners, we wouldn't go so far as to claim that France is a low-regulation country. There are strict rules around employment as well as health and safety of employees and employer liability (who could forget the French court that ruled that a company was liable for the employee who died while having sex with a stranger on a business trip?) 

And of course there are generally mountains of paperwork associated with all aspects of life in France.

But France does seem to be moving towards embracing the start-up culture and of course if your business is here you also get to enjoy the many benefits of living in France – from excellent healthcare to a serious range of good cheeses.



Member comments

  1. Hmmm…unless there is a France in a parallel universe where things are done more efficiently than the one I live in…this really is good marketing but lacking substance. Switching from one business type to another is a major headache and usually takes months, even if just adding additional activities to an existing Siret, or changing address…short of a total overhaul of current processes I do not see France becoming overly attractive to business in the near future.

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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.