Unemployment: 200,000 jobless people in France set to lose benefits

And hundreds of thousands more unemployed people in France will lose some of their benefits, under President Emmanuel Macron's new reforms which come into force today.

Unemployment: 200,000 jobless people in France set to lose benefits
The reforms came into effect on Friday. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

The new rules, which Macron has defended as necessary to get the unemployed back to work, severely curtail access to benefits for some of the country's 3.62 million jobless.

They stipulate that a jobseeker must have worked six out of the last 24 months in order to be able to claim benefits, compared to a previous requirement of four months out of the last 28.

Those aged over 53 require fewer months of contributions.

The measures, which were pushed through by the government this summer by decree, will lead to around 200,000 jobless losing their benefits, according to Unedic, the state agency in charge of providing the aid.

Around 500,000 others will either have to wait several months more on average to be able to claim benefits or will receive smaller payments, the agency added.


Macron, a centrist former investment banker, came to power in 2017 vowing to get France's legions of unemployed – the unemployment rate stood at 8.5 percent in the second quarter – off benefits and back into the workforce.

He is also on a drive to cut spending, famously complaining last year that France was spending “a crazy amount of dough” on social security.

The regulations that took effect on Friday are part of a battery of reforms to be implemented in two phases, with sweeping changes to the way benefits are calculated – the government believes the current system is too generous – planned for April.

Apart from requiring benefits applicants to have worked for longer the new system also makes it harder for those who find work but later find themselves out of a job again to access assistance.

The reforms also cut the aid available to those who earned over €4,500 a month, who will have their benefits cut by 30 percent after seven months.

Benefits 'not a profession'

The government says it aims to cut the debt of the benefits regime and pressure those who take short contracts just to keep up their benefits to try find long-term employment.

“Being on benefits is not a life goal, it's not a profession,” Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said recently, adding that “when the market is dynamic, you must return to work”.

But trade unions are up in arm over the changes, including the moderate CFDT trade union, whose leader Laurent Berger has described the reforms as a “slaughter”.

“It's one of the toughest social reforms that have been carried out in the past 25 years,” Berger told Le Figaro newspaper.

Anti-unemployment charity Agir Ensemble Contre Le Chomage warned that those already struggling to get by on benefits now faced a battle “for their very survival”.

Those who stand to benefit from the reforms are people who quit their jobs or who work for themselves.

Until now, employees who resign have been ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Starting on Friday, they will have rights to benefits on condition that they can sketch out a career plan.

The self-employed will also be entitled to claim limited unemployment assistance.

Article by AFP's Déborah Claude and Clare Byrne

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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.