If you want to find a job in France, speaking French is important. If you don’t speak French, it is hard to find anything but the most menial employment, so think about taking a language course if your French is rusty or non-existent.
This guide to finding work in France includes:
- Work in France
- How to find jobs in France
- Self-employment and freelancing in France
- Traineeships, internships, and volunteering in France
- Applying for a job in France
- Support while looking for a job in France
- Requirements to work in France
- Starting a job in France
- Useful resources
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Work in France
Job market in France
Unemployment in France is currently slightly above the EU and Eurozone averages. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques – INSEE), the French unemployment rate currently stands at 7.1%.
As in many other European countries, unemployment in France is higher among the under-25 age group and there has been a growth of flexible, impermanent work contracts in recent years.
The French government recently announced plans to introduce quotas on migrant workers to control the workforce in certain industries. This will affect migrants from outside the EU/EFTA who usually need a work visa to work in France. EU/EFTA citizens have the same employment rights as French citizens, with the exception of some public administration positions.
Major industries in France include aerospace, automotive, pharmaceutical, industrial machinery, electronics, finance, food and drink, and tourism. Some of the biggest companies based in France include:
- BNP Paribas
- Crédit Agricole
- Société Générale
Job vacancies in France
There were around 212,000 job vacancies in France as of June 2020.
Shortage occupations in France currently include:
- STEM professionals (science, technology, engineering, and math)
- medical professionals
- construction workers
- ICT professionals
You can also find many jobs in tourism, retail, agriculture, and the care sector.
Job salaries in France
The French government revises the minimum wage each year. In 2020, it rose to €10.15 an hour from €10.03 in 2019. This places it among the highest out of EU nations.
Salaries in France vary greatly across sectors and skill levels. There are also variations across regions, with big cities such as Paris having higher wages on average. The mean annual earnings for a full-time worker in France was €38,747 in 2018.
Read more in our guide to French salaries.
Work culture in France
In France, businesses have a strong hierarchy with clearly defined positions and power. Secretaries work hard to protect their bosses from disturbances so you will hardly speak directly to people in top positions. Even the seating arrangements around a meeting table will be organized according to rank.
When you’re in a meeting expect to discuss the subject rather than make a decision on it. When decisions are made every aspect will be analyzed extensively beforehand. Strategies tend to be long-term and planned only by senior staff. Punctuality is important, appointments are necessary, and negotiations are calm and formal.
Labor laws and labor rights in France
French labor laws are protective with a statutory working week of 35 hours (after which you get paid overtime), around one to two hours for lunch, and a minimum of five weeks’ holiday a year plus other benefits such as paid parental leave. The maximum number of working hours per week is 48.
If you’re working for a company of more than 50 employees you’ll automatically enjoy the protection of a French employment union, even if you don’t join it. However, written employment contracts are not a legal requirement in France, and employees of smaller firms or those working in casual jobs may not receive one. It’s a good idea to request a written contract as it’s easier to protect your employment rights.
Notice periods in French employment contracts are usually between 1-3 months. Employers need to follow certain procedures and guidelines if dismissing workers, and certain categories of employees (e.g., pregnant women and those on sick leave due to a work-related incident) have special protection aimed at preventing their dismissal.
See full details in our guide to labor laws in France.
How to find jobs in France
On the Expatica jobs page, there are ads for jobs at all levels in many different sectors around the country.
If you’re from the EU/EFTA, you can look for a job in France through EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal set up by the European Commission to aid free movement within the zone. As well as looking for work, you can upload your CV and get advice on the legal and administrative issues involved in working in France. EURES holds job fairs in various locations.
Public French job sites
Jobs are posted by the French national employment agency Pôle Emploi. You’ll find all kinds of jobs including manual, unskilled and casual work, and they have offices all over France. APEC is the national employment agency for professional and managerial jobs.
Job websites in France
- ABG – scientific/medical jobs
- Cadremploi – managerial jobs
- L’Etudiant – students and young graduates
- L’Hôtellerie Restauration – restaurants and hotel jobs
- IAPA (International Au Pair Organization) – a list of French agencies for au pair jobs
- Indeed France
- Les Jeudis
- The Local – English-language jobs
- Stratégies Emploi – marketing, communications, and PR jobs
Employment search engines across France
English-speaking jobs in France
You can sign on with as many recruitment agencies as possible. Look for names and contact details of recruitment agencies in the Pages Jaunes (Yellow Pages) under cabinet de recrutement. Reputable companies will be members of the recruitment agencies’ professional body Prism Emploi.
Teaching jobs in France
English, German, and Spanish are all in demand but getting a job in the French education system will usually require French qualifications. The British Council has information about becoming a foreign language assistant in French state schools. A teaching qualification (e.g., TEFL) or even a university degree and some experience may be sufficient for a position within a private language school or training agency.
There are lots of private language schools – some 300 in Paris alone – and you can choose between primary and secondary, as well as adult learners. Also check out opportunities at international schools in France, French universities, and local town halls because many run English-language classes. For TEFL courses and jobs across France, see TEFL Toulouse. You can also check for jobs with language schools in France.
Embassies and foreign organizations
Check out opportunities at the embassies and consulates in Paris and beyond. Most will expect a high standard of both spoken and written French. The American Library in Paris has a community message board with job advertisements.
Both national and regional newspapers carry adverts for job vacancies, with links to job websites or their own pages; some main newspapers include Le Monde and Le Point.
FUSAC is a Paris-focused, English-language, web-based magazine with lots of job ads and can also put you in touch with others in the English-speaking community of Paris – good for work and social networking.
Jobs in France should be widely advertised but, in reality, many positions are filled through personal contacts; networking is thus important because even a casual acquaintance could lead you to a potential job. Ask around: friends of friends, and through social networking sites for professionals, such as LinkedIn and Viadeo, the French social networking site. Alternatively, join a meet-up group to make contacts with like-minded individuals working in similar fields all over France.
Make the first move – speculative applications
Speculative applications (candidatures spontanées) are considered a sign that you have the ambition to achieve and are looked upon favorably in France. Use the Pages Jaunes (Yellow Pages) to look for companies in your sector and check out the websites of international companies.
Self-employment and freelancing in France
Another option in France is to strike out on your own and work as either a freelancer or set up your own business. Just over 11.6% of the workforce in France is self-employed and it’s something that’s open to French and EU citizens as well as those from outside the EU/EFTA with French residency or the necessary permit.
You have two choices of self-employment in France: you can set yourself up as a sole trader (enterprise individuelle) where your business and personal finances are treated as the same; or you can set yourself up as a separate company (société) which is a separate legal entity. A société might have distinct advantages but bear in mind it comes with added filing responsibilities including annual corporation tax.
Traineeships, internships, and volunteering in France
The EU offers traineeships for university graduates via the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages), otherwise, internships or summer placements can be arranged by AIESEC (for students and recent graduates in the UK) or IAESTE (for students in science, engineering and applied arts). Internships can also be found at Globalplacement and Go Abroad.
For those aged between 17 and 30, volunteer programs are arranged by the European Voluntary Service (EVS), where you work abroad for up to 12 months in exchange for board, food, insurance, and a small allowance. Concordia is another organization for volunteer opportunities. For holiday volunteering opportunities, check Workaway.
Applying for a job in France
Once you’ve found a job in France, give yourself the best chance of getting an interview by sending in your job application in a format that French employers expect to see. Most French jobs will ask for either a completed application along with a personal statement, or a CV and accompanying cover letter.
Either way, you should focus on selling your key strengths in order to convince the company that you’re the best person for the job.
Preparing for a job interview in France is much the same as in countries such as the US or the UK. You should research the company so that you can prepare good questions. The exact nature of the interview and what to expect will depend on the prospective employer. For more professional jobs or positions with large companies, interviews may be accompanied by a short test or project to test your skills and knowledge.
To help you prepare, read our guides on CV writing and interview tips in France and tips on French business etiquette. If you need assistance writing a CV, you could also try an online resume builder such as Resume.io.
Support while looking for a job in France
You can claim unemployment benefits while looking for work in France. However, it’s a contributions-based system and you will need to have worked a minimum of 122 days in the last 28 months to claim. You will also need to be registered as a jobseeker with Pôle Emploi and be actively looking for work.
If you want to improve your job skills and employability in France, Pôle Emploi also has details of over 250,000 training courses available across the country.
Requirements to work in France
Work visas in France
If you’re a citizen of an EU/EFTA you can work in France freely without the need for a visa or permit.
Almost everyone else who wants to work in France will have to first find a job and then the prospective employer will apply for authorization in order for you to work. You will then be granted a work visa for the duration of your stay.
Language requirements to work in France
If you want to get a job, you’ll typically need to speak French to a good standard – even if a job requires you to speak your mother tongue they will probably still require some French language proficiency. Some jobs may require you to prove your French language skills or sit a language test.
Even if you work for a multinational firm in France where English is the spoken language, you will improve your career chances if you learn French. If your French isn’t up to scratch you might consider a job teaching English while you study French at a language school in France.
Qualifications to work in France
Countries signed up to the Bologna Process will have their educational qualifications recognized in France. If you’re from anywhere else, then you can find out whether the qualifications you’ve obtained in your home country will be recognized in France through the Centre ENIC-NARIC France.
You can find out whether your profession is regulated (needs specific qualifications for you to be able to practice it) in France by checking on the European Commission’s database.
Tax and social security numbers in France
If you find a job in France, you will be issued with two numbers – a tax ID number (SPI number) and a social security number (INSEE number).
The SPI number is used by the French tax authorities to keep track of your tax payments in France, whereas the INSEE number is used for social security purposes in France and is necessary to claim unemployment benefits or French health insurance.
Read our guide on French ID numbers to find out more.
Starting a job in France
Job probationary periods in France are normally between 2-4 months, depending on the type of job it is. During the probationary period, the notice period for terminating the contract will probably be shorter.
Once you start a job, your employer should enroll you for French health insurance and other social security benefits in France and you should receive your INSEE number. You should also be covered for any work-related illnesses or injuries through your French employer’s insurance.
Depending on your employer, you may also be offered the chance to opt in on a company pension to top up your state pension benefit, as well as other in-work benefits.