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EMPLOYMENT

Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland

Nearly half of French workers living near the Swiss border are employed in Geneva. That’s because French companies can’t match the salaries these people are earning in Switzerland.

Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland
Tens of thousands of French workers commute to Geneva daily. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

According to a report by Switzerland’s SRF television, more than 44 percent of French nationals who live near the Swiss border work in Geneva. 

These numbers are based on a report by the French Institute for Statistics and Demographic Studies.

About 85,000 workers commute to their jobs in Geneva each day from the nearby French regions of Haute-Savoie and Ain.

These employees – called frontaliers – prefer to work in Switzerland because they can earn up to double the salary they would get in France for the same job. Also, taxes are lower in Switzerland than in France.

This poses a problem for French companies located near the border, as they can’t find any personnel.

For instance, Jean Benoît-Guyot runs a plumbing business in the French commune of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, which is located right on the border with the canton of Geneva.

He said he would like to immediately hire at least five employees, but can’t find anyone locally.

“Everyone wants to work in Switzerland”, he told the SRF.

The same situation is common in Switzerland’s other border areas as well.

READ MORE: Will Switzerland extend the beneficial tax arrangements for cross-border workers? 

Kévin Lecoq, who lives in the French region bordering the Swiss canton of Jura told the SRF that at end of his cooking apprenticeship he didn’t even look for work in France, but went straight to Switzerland.

Today he works with four other French citizens in a pizzeria in the Jura town of Saignelégier.

“If we add up everything that has to be paid in taxes, we still have one and a half times the French salary”, he said.

Another cross-border effect of Swiss wages is that frontaliers are driving up the rents and living costs in the neighbouring areas of France. This, in turn, encourages even more French workers to seek employment in Switzerland.

But while the SRF report focused on the French, the same situation exists in cantons of Ticino and Basel, which share borders with Italy and Germany, respectively.

More than 67,000 Italian cross-border workers are employed in Ticino, and over 33,000 Germans are employed in Switzerland.

In total, 329,000 frontaliers work for Swiss companies.

Cross-border commuters can be employed in Switzerland thanks to a bilateral agreement,The Free Movement of Persons, that the government signed with the countries of the European Union. It allows EU nationals free access to the Swiss labour market.
 

Member comments

  1. I know that many who live in France choose to work in Switzerland due to higher salary, but I also know that for a lot of people, the process was the opposite. They were offered a job in Switzerland, but in certain Swiss cities (Geneva for example, which hosts a lot of French cross-border workers), there is a serious housing shortage, so a lot of people are forced to extend the perimeters of their housing search.

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For members

WORKING IN FRANCE

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

Age

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

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. 

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