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Working in France

Unemployment Benefits in France: A Safety Net for Tough Times

You have been enjoying a new life and career in France, but one day, the worst-case scenario happens: you lose your job. What now? This InterNations GO! guide explains how unemployment benefits work in France and what to watch out for when it comes to renewing residence permits.

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At a Glance:

  • In case of involuntary unemployment, job seekers are covered by the French unemployment insurance system for the next two years.
  • There is also an additional follow-up allowance for the long-term unemployed.
  • Expats may be entitled to unemployment benefits too. If they moved to France for work, they should look for advice on whether unemployment will affect their right to stay in France.

The Allocation Chômage: Benefits to Help You Back to Work

France has now had an official unemployment insurance scheme for more than 60 years. The Assurance chômage was established in 1958, and the most recent changes have just been introduced in 2017. Its administrative side is run by an organization called Unédic.

How Is the Unemployment Insurance in France Funded?

The insurance scheme covers employees and most managers in the private sector. However, it includes only some public-sector employers and specifically excludes both civil servants and the self-employed (e.g. in arts and crafts, trade or commerce, entrepreneurs, small-business owners, and self-employed professionals such as doctors or lawyers). However, just like managers who are not covered by the regular Assurance chômage, many self-employed people voluntarily sign up with a special insurance service.

The government insurance scheme is funded by contributions from both employers and employees. The latter needs to pay 2.4% of their gross salary. The company, on the other hand, generally contributes 4% of the employee’s income to the unemployment insurance plan, plus another 0.25% for a salary guarantee in case of bankruptcy. If the employee earns more than 13,076 EUR per month (2017 figure), all earnings beyond this limit won’t be taken into account for calculating their contributions.

Who Is Entitled to Claim Benefits?

Unemployment benefits in France are called Allocation d’aide au retour à l’emploi (ARE), literally an “allowance to help you return to work”. Employees in France need to fulfill certain conditions to receive these benefits while they are looking for work.

  • They need to be younger than the legal retirement age.
  • They shouldn’t have quit voluntarily or been fired for misconduct.
  • They have paid insurance contributions for at least 88 days (or four months) of work during the past 28 months before their unemployment.
  • They need to be available for work and capable of working.
  • Foreign residents also need a valid residence permit.
  • Every jobseeker needs to register at a Pôle emploi (official job center) and update them about their employment status each month.

In order to register at the Pôle emploi, they need to find their local office and contact them online or go there in person — ideally not later than one day after their employment has ended. Job seekers registering for the ARE generally need to provide the following documents:

  • an up-to-date CV
  • proof of their qualifications and work experience
  • their Carte vitale (social security card)
  • current bank details

How Much Will You Receive in Benefits?

After a short waiting period, the job center will start transferring ARE benefits directly into the job seeker’s personal bank account. This waiting period normally lasts seven days; however, it can be longer if you haven’t used up all your paid leave or if you have received a severance package from your company.

The minimum amount in benefits is 28.86 EUR per day, while the maximum amounts to a daily 245.04 EUR. However, your benefits depend on your personal situation and work history. On average, they amount to 57% of your previous salary, taking some perks such as bonuses into account. For further details, the Pôle emploi offers a (French-only) online calculator for a fairly accurate estimate of the sum you are entitled to.

You will receive the ARE benefits for at least four months, but only for up to two years. (Job seekers above the age of 55 are entitled to 36 months of benefits in total.) When this period is over, there are, however, still other kinds of assistance you can rely on.

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Unemployment Allowance: Support for the Long-Term Unemployed

In 1984, a new kind of welfare payment was introduced in France. The Allocation de solidarité spécifique(ASS) (specific solidarity allowance) is a means-tested income for those who are no longer entitled to regular unemployment benefits (ARE). It is not funded by contributions from employers and employees, but by the government budget for welfare and social issues.

Who’s Entitled to the Unemployment Allowance?

Job seekers struggling with long-term unemployment are entitled to the Allocation de solidaritéspécifique if they meet the conditions listed below.

  • They were gainfully employed in France, in other EU or EEA member states, or in Switzerland for at least five years in the last ten years before they became unemployed.
  • Periods of enrolling in education or training, of raising children, of looking after a person with disabilities, etc. may also be counted towards the qualifying period.
  • They are below the official retirement age in France.
  • They are capable of working. If someone receives benefits due to illness, a work accident, maternity leave, or disability, they can’t get the Allocation de solidarité spécifique at the same time.
  • They are actively looking for a job or trying to start their own business.
  • Their average household income per month must be below a certain limit (e.g. 1,142.41 EUR for a single person in 2017). Some specific kinds of income (e.g. the family allowance for people with children) don’t count towards that maximum.

The Allocation de solidarité spécifique needs to be applied for at the job center. The application has to be renewed every six months unless your employment situation has changed. The Pôle emploi usually sends an automatic reminder when the next renewal is due.

How Much Will You Receive in Benefits?

If the applicant (here, a single person in 2017) has an income of more than 652.80 EUR, it will be topped up to 1,142.41 EUR per month. If they have a monthly income of less than 652.80 EUR, they will receive at least 16.32 EUR per day or 488.10 EUR per month.

The Allocation de solidarité spécifique can be combined with certain other benefits (e.g. the Aide personnalisée au logement or “personal housing allowance”). Together, these kinds of benefits should provide a subsistence-level income.

In Case of Emergency: Expat Rights

Individual situations may vary, but an expat’s rights to unemployment benefits usually depend on their nationality and their reasons for coming to France. If their residence permit is tied to their work, instead of other reasons like family ties or studies, they might even have to leave the country if they cannot find a new job.

If you have any specific questions about this topic, we’d highly recommend that you get advice from a legal professional specializing in immigration law and/or labor and social security law.

Employees and Jobseekers from EU Member States

If you are a national of another EU country, an EEA member state, or of Switzerland, you can move to France for work or business a short-term stay of more than three months and less than five years.

In case of temporary sickness or involuntary unemployment, you can normally stay for another six months in order to recover or look for a new job. In these six months, you’d be entitled to receive ARE benefits, provided you meet all the other conditions explained above.

It also possible to move to France in order to look for a job. However, you aren’t allowed to stay for more than six months in this case. You need to register with the Pôle emploi, but you are only entitled to the Allocation chômage if you have actually worked in France, even for just a few days. If you have already been receiving unemployment benefits in another EU member state before moving, you may be able to claim ARE benefits for three to six months.

After living and working in France for more than five years, you can apply for a Carte de séjour “Citoyen UE/EEE/Suisse — Séjour permanent” (a permanent residence permit). Once you have obtained this permit, you will usually be treated like a French national when it comes to unemployment (and other) benefits.

Non-EU Nationals with Work-Related Residence Permits

For third-country nationals — expats from outside EU or EEA — the situation is more complicated and strongly depends on what kind of visa or residence permit they have.

If they have obtained a Carte de séjour salarié/travailleur temporaire (a temporary residence permit for workers or employees), this needs to be renewed every year. After the first renewal, it will be valid for another four years.

If an expat with this kind of residence permit is an official job seeker registered with Pôle emploi when renewal is due, the residence permit generally gets renewed for another twelve months. They can use this time to look for a new job. In case they are still out of work after a year, their permit usually gets renewed a second time, but it will only be valid until their ARE benefits run out.

Expats with a permanent residence permit are entitled to the same benefits as French citizens.

Updated on: December 11, 2019
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