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Working in France

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Your Guide on Jobs and Finding Work in France

The social security system and benefits in France are just a couple of reasons why working in France is appealing to expats. Our guide gives you the inside scoop on this plus how to find a job in France, what you need to know about the French business culture, and even how to become a freelancer.

The biggest problem with France’s job market today is not a lack of jobs, but a lack of skills among workers. With 200,000 vacant positions jobs such as machine operators, butchers, carpenters, and computer engineers, this could mean good news for skilled expat workers. Despite all of this, France’s unemployment rate is actually better than it has been in the past ten years. It has decreased to 9%.  If you do manage to find a job France, social security benefits will make it all worth the effort.

So, from social security to the average salary, minimum wage, business culture, working days, working as a self-employed person, parental leave, and everything else in between, this guide gives you all the information you need on how to find a job in France.

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How to Get a Job in France

If you are wondering how to get a job in France as a foreigner, the internet should be your first place to go. Below are some relevant job search websites to get you started on your search:

Networking Tips

Networking is an excellent way to get a job in France. Here are a few networking tips that could be useful:

  • Network online – join social media groups specifically set up to announce job postings and other vacancies such as LinkedIn.
  • Network in person – InterNations hosts various community events where it is possible to meet and chat with other expats offline.
  • Find and attend relevant industry events.
  • Have your “elevator pitch” ready when you attend networking events. This is a 30-second sales pitch that summarizes who you are and your professional experience.
  • Always dress to impress and have some business cards handy.

Work in France as a Foreigner

If you are from outside of France, you will need to make sure you meet all the requirements for working in France. This means you may need a work visa and residence permit. To find out if you are first eligible to work in France, check out our Visas and Work Permits section of the guide.

How to Apply for a Job in France

The French use the word Curriculum Vitae (CV), instead of résumé, but they are considered the same. Before you apply for a job in France, make sure your CV is relevant and up-to-date with all your current details. From here you will want to make sure that it is a France-style CV to increase your chances of getting hired.

If the job you are applying for was posted in English, you might be fine sending your information in English but in many cases, expect to have your CV translated into French. The French typically expect a cover letter as well which will also need to be written in French. In any case, it is best to have your documents in your native language as well as in French to be on the safe side. A good tip, especially if you are not a native French speaker, is to ask a native French speaker to look over your CV and cover letter to make sure there are not any errors.

References are not required in either document. You can, however, bring your references’ contact information with you during the interview stage.

CV Tips

CVs in France are usually kept formal and concise. Information to include in your French CV are:

  • Full name (surname first)
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • E-mail
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Nationality
  • Eligibility to legally work
  • Passport-sized, professional headshot (optional)

This information is followed by the projet professionnelle section, where you summarize your qualifications.  Next comes your expérience professionnelle (work experience) which should be listed in reverse chronological order with dates. Include the name of the company you worked for, sector, job title, and bullet points of your primary responsibilities.

Then you will move on to the next part of your CV which is your formation (education) where you will list your educational details, achievements, certificates, and any other relevant training you may have had. If your schooling is exceptionally impressive, for example, if you attended one of the Grandes Écoles, you may want to consider putting this section first, before work experience.

Langues (languages) is the portion that follows which, as an expat, you will certainly want to include. Specify any French language courses you have taken or are currently enrolled in to show you are proactively trying to improve this skill.

Under informatique, you can add any computer skills and, lastly, any hobbies under centres d’intérêt.

Cover Letter Tips

Your lettre de motivation (cover letter) should have your name and address on the top left corner and the name of the person you are writing to, plus the job reference in the top right. Your cover letter should be short and concise – this means no more than 15-20 lines. Talk about specific work examples that highlight why you are the right fit for the job.

Interview Tips

This stage of the job process can be nerve-wracking, where you can expect to attend up to four interviews in some cases, but at least you can congratulate and be proud of yourself for making it this far. With a few interview tips, you will be well on your way to landing your dream job in France.

  • Do your homework – research the key people in the company, company projects, recent industry news, etc.
  • Be punctual.
  • Address everyone you meet as “Madame” or “Monsieur”.
  • Always use “vous”, not the informal “tu”.
  • While kissing is a normal way to greet people in Europe, it is actually not common in an interview setting in France. Opt for a firm handshake instead.
  • Do not be put off by personal questions such as if you have children or are married. These sorts of questions are acceptable in France.
  • Have a few questions prepared for the interviewer as well.
  • Be professional and courteous but do not be afraid to show off your personality.

Job Opportunities in France for Foreigners

If you are looking for a corporate career and are a highly skilled worker, France’s leading industrial sectors are energy, manufacturing and technology, transport, agriculture, and tourism.

Alternatively, many expats abroad take on jobs as au pairs, English teachers, or positions in the tourist industry. The internet indeed is the best way to get a job in France as a foreigner, especially if you have yet to arrive in the country. Here are some relevant job search websites for au pair and English-teaching positions:

Minimum Wage and Average Salary

The minimum wage in France, the second largest EU economy, is 1,498.47 EUR (1,681 USD) per month with the average salary being 2,998 EUR (3,362 USD) gross (or 2,250 EUR (2,524 USD) net) for a full-time, private sector employee. France has one of the highest average salaries in the EU, but unemployment rates remain above the EU average.

Nevertheless, France is expected to experience job growth in some sectors from now until 2030, as per Skills Panorama. The industries currently dominating the employment market are health and social care, wholesale and retail trade, and manufacturing. The most in-demand jobs are expected to be in construction, followed by the accommodation and food sector, and professional services. For a look at how much they pay, see the table below.

For the time being, while there will be jobs for high skills workers such as researchers and engineers, it is the low skill level positions that will experience the fastest growth. Professions with the most significant number of job openings are cleaners and helpers, office associates, sales workers, science and engineer technicians, and teachers.

Profession Average annual salary (EUR)
Construction 28, 956 (32,476 USD)
Cleaner 19,480 (21,852 USD)
Sales Worker 19,962 (22,392 USD)
Engineer 43,000 (48,235 USD)
Teacher (high school level) 30,000 (33,653 USD)
Professionals 34,573 (38,788 USD)

Self-Employment

As of January 2015, self-employment in France has become more much attainable due to new rules that came into force.

Under the French micro-enterprise regime, anyone wishing to set up a small business or work as a freelancer can do so, as long as they meet all the necessary requirements. This rather advantageous tax status is quite popular because it offers simplified accounting and tax requirements, but there are several others. This is the best system to get started working as a self-employed person in France, but it has its limitations too. There are certain thresholds which your business earnings cannot exceed. If so, you will have to switch to a different system. Our tax article covers this in more detail. This status is not an option for real estate agents or lawyers.

So, if you have ever wondered how to be self-employed in France, here is how.

First, you will need to register your business at the Centre e Formalités des Entreprises (CFE) but be aware that there are different types CFEs depending on your type of business and work. You will need to go to the appropriate one to properly register and fill out this form. The whole process can also be done online.

Other requirements:

  • Official ID or passport
  • Proof of professional insurance

If your business is a trade, you will need to register with the Répertoire des Métiers (RM) as well and fill out an additional form. If you are selling goods, you must declare yourself with the Registre Spécial des Agents Commerciaux (RSAC).

Also, if your business is one of the occupations regulated by the French government, such as veterinarians, hairdressers, accountants, builders, or wine dealers, you will also need to register with the appropriate organization. Be prepared to show all your qualifications, experience, and insurance.

Self-employed workers in France need to complete a mandatory 4-5-day training course covering how to run your own business. It is organized by the Chambres de Métiers et de l’Artisanat. There are other optional courses as well for those wishing to set up commercial and industrial businesses.

Once you have correctly registered your business, you will be sent a unique 9-digit ID number called your SIREN, proof that your company is officially and properly registered.

If at any point you want or have to close and shut down your business, there is an online form to fill out.

Top self-employed jobs in France include occupations such as craftsmen, journalists, and translators. Some of the best ways to find freelance work in France are via Upwork, Malt, Twago, or Freelance in France.

Other Options for Self-Employed Workers

Freelancers can also work through a portage salarial or by joining a workers’ co-operative.

portage salarial allows you to work as a freelancer or consultant in some fields without having to register as a business. You sign a contract with an umbrella company who essentially becomes your employer, and they handle all of your self-employment paperwork. You are still responsible for finding your own clients, but your invoices and payments are processed by the company. For this, you will pay the company anywhere between 7 to 10% of your monthly invoices.

This system works best for those planning to work as writers, web designers, translators, in telemarketing, consulting, IT, or remote, home-based work.

Joining a workers’ co-operative is another route. Similar to a portage salarial, you sign a contract with the co-operative, and they handle all your accounting. Typically, you pay them 10% of your earnings.

Social Security and Benefits

For self-employed workers, France has a social security scheme in place. Self-employed workers are covered for health, family allowances, pensions, but for unemployment or sick pay, self-employed workers will need to take out separate coverage. Those who are self-employed need to register for social security with the Union de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familiales (URSSAF). They will send you bills for your contributions. But there are some self-employed benefits in France to keep in mind. Some examples are a 2.15-point reduction in “family” contribution, 5-point reduction in health contribution, among other discounts and assistance. This government plan to help self-employed workers was presented in late 2017.

Business culture

France’s business culture is very professional, and formality is highly regarded. Business is done in a very straight-forward manner with executives focusing on developing long-term relationships with business partners. The French are known for not taking any high risks when it comes to business. Working days in France are Monday to Friday, 35 hours per week.

France’s working culture is based on the principles of tradition, attention to detail, and a clear hierarchical structure. For example, anything that veers away from France’s cultural norms is not typically accepted when it comes to doing business with the French.

France’s workplace culture dress code is business formal, meaning that employees are expected to dress and appear elegant and sophisticated. Quality and stylish business attire are appreciated. Men are usually in suit and ties, while women are expected to dress in conservative dresses or pantsuits. Color palettes tend to be dark. Grooming is also important, and men’s beards should always be neat and trimmed.

Follow these other business etiquette tips, and you will be sure to make it in the French business world:

  • Business meetings – Before any meeting, it is crucial you make an appointment. The French do not take too well to unexpected visitors. Do your best to arrive on time, but if you are running five minutes behind, this is usually okay and tolerated in France. Meetings tend to follow strict agendas with little room for small talk. Make sure you have relevant and important things to add to the topics of discussion during the meeting.
  • Be patient – When it comes to decision-making, the French do not like to be pressured into deciding anything quickly. Therefore, try not to be too pushy with your sales tactics. This will only make everyone feel flustered and aggravated. If it is an important decision, it probably will not be made in the first meeting anyway.
  • Gift policy – Gift giving to fellow associates is not necessary. If you would like to show your business partners and co-workers appreciation, it is better to invite them to dinner or host an event. The only time when presents are expected is during small social gatherings. If you are asked to someone’s home, then bring a small gift. Some examples of appropriate gifts are wine, liquor, dessert, fine chocolate, or flowers.

Social Security and Benefits

If you are wondering how to get a social security number in France, it can be obtained by either one of two ways: by you or your employer. If you are employed in France, it is usually easiest to let your HR department request your France social security number on your behalf. The process may also be speedier this way.

What is the Social Security Number in France?

This is essentially your ID number and represents your affiliation to the French social security scheme. You will need this number for many administrative procedures while in France.

Can a Foreigner Get a Social Security Number?

The answer is yes. So long as a foreigner is legally residing in France, with the proper documentation, and has been for more than three months, they are eligible.

Applying for a Social Security Number in France

On the occasion that you need to ask for one on your own, you can do so by filling out the 736 Demande d’ouverture des droits à l’assurance maladie form. You will be asked for numbers and information you may not have yet (such as social security number) – leave that section of the form blank.

Other documents you will require to apply for your social security number are:

  • Copy of your passport
  • Copy of your VISA or permanent residence card
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof that you have lived in France for more than three months (phone or water bills, etc.)
  • Bank account information

Once you have all your paperwork completed and documents gathered, you can either mail them in or apply in person at your local CPAM office.

You will first receive a permanent number (usually within three weeks) which you can use to get reimbursements. Only later (about 2-6 months) can you expect to receive your permanent social security number. Once you have this, you can then apply for your carte Vitale, which is your physical social security card with your number on it. Instructions for how to request your carte Vitale will have been sent to you along with your permanent social security number. This card usually takes about a month to arrive.

Benefits

Social security benefits in France are among the highest in the EU. They include:

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Family allowances
  • Old age pension
  • Health and sickness benefits
  • Invalidity benefits
  • Accidents and occupational disease benefits
  • Death benefits
  • Maternity and paternity

The Mobili-Pass Subsidy

For professional expats moving to France for work-related purposes, the France government has introduced the mobili-subsidy, a financial subsidy for moving employees to help cover relocation costs. The grant can range anywhere between 3,000 EUR (3,353 USD) and 3,500 EUR (3,912 USD) maximum. Any employee from any company (whether French or foreign) is eligible for the subsidy if the company:

  • is private and based in France;
  • not in the farming sector;
  • has 10 or more employees;
  • pays the mandatory 1% contribution to the French government.

This subsidy program is not available for seasonal workers, employees who work from home, or interns.

To learn more about the Mobili-Pass grant, click here.

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Maternity and Paternity Leave

How long is maternity leave in France? A minimum of eight weeks of maternity leave in France is compulsory. Sixteen weeks of congé maternité (maternity leave) are optional — usually six weeks prenatal and ten weeks postnatal. For a third child, this amount increases to 26 weeks — eight weeks prenatal and 18 weeks postnatal. It also increases if the woman is expecting twins or triplets, or in the case of premature birth. Paternity leave and benefits include a leave period of eleven consecutive days for the delivery of one child, or 18 for multiple births. Adoption leave is set at ten weeks or 22 weeks if adopting more than one child.

Employees who have been with their employer for more than a year are free to take up to three years of parental leave. This is referred to as congé parental d’éducation. After this period, they must be re-employed in the same position or a similar job. Under no circumstances can an employee be fired during their parental leave. Other paternity and maternity benefits in France include a daily allowance equal to the wage they were making over the last three months of the pregnancy if they are on leave. However, there is usually a limit to this, set by social security. You will also receive benefits in cash: medicine costs are paid in cash if you stop all forms of paid work.

If you happen to be unemployed, you can still claim maternity leave but have to stop your unemployment payments first.

InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
19 June 2019
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