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Work Culture and Labour Market for Expats in France

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: November 2014

Work Culture

The French are renowned for working to live rather than living to work, and there are laws in place to ensure this lifestyle is maintained. The average working day is 7 hours, with a lunch break of up to 2 hours. Workers get a minimum of 5 weeks’ annual leave, with some getting 8 or 9 – in addition to at least 13 public holidays.

Furthermore, the great majority of the French take all their allocated holiday time, rather than working through some of it as is done in some other countries. While away from work, the French give it little thought. They know how to relax properly and as a rule do not take their work home with them. Nevertheless, while working, they concentrate on their work and do not brook distractions.

French workplaces, particularly business, still have a rather formal air to them. For example, it is de rigueur to make appointments with people rather than casually dropping in on them. It is also important to address people by their title and surname at first, and always use vous rather than the over-familiar or impolite tu. Colleagues are usually on first name terms with each other but when you first join a team, you should wait to be offered first name terms. The French are normally reserved and somewhat aloof from their colleagues, not volunteering information about their private lives or socialising with them outside work.

In France, wearing conservative, formal clothes is less important than looking good. In the workplace, you will be looked upon more favourably if your clothes are tasteful and fashionable. This is especially true for women. It is preferable to be punctual at work, but no-one will be greatly upset if for example you turn up 10 minutes late to an appointment – particularly in the Midi (the southern half of France.)

 

Labour Market

Unemployment in France is, at just over 10%, somewhat higher than the world average. It is highest in the industrial north and in the south-east. At 22%, youth unemployment is especially a problem, though this rate has decreased in the past few months. This is one of the signs that France’s labour market is starting to recover.

Even with no barrier to entering France, given the current economic situation, you should only consider moving to France if you have good employment prospects. It may be worth first taking temporary work. Typical temporary positions available to non-residents include language teaching, seasonal agricultural work (such as grape picking and crushing) au pairing, hospitality work and tourism. Fluency in French will undoubtedly help your application, and taking a temporary job will help to boost your French-speaking skills and tide you over while you search for a more permanent position.

In 2013, the French economy has shown some signs of recovery from the worldwide recession. There has been modest growth, though GDP decreased very slightly by 0.1% in the third quarter. Moreover, unemployment in France is, at nearly 11%, somewhat higher than the world average. Youth unemployment is especially a problem, as it is currently around 25%.

There are currently 240,000 job vacancies in France, which means there are more than 11 unemployed persons per vacancy. As this implies, finding a job in France in generally going to be it difficult. However, if you have skills in an area that is in high demand, such as IT, engineering, finance and construction, you should find it much easier.

Given the current economic situation, you should only consider moving to France if you have good employment prospects. Initially, it may be worth taking temporary work. Typical temporary positions available to non-residents include language teaching, seasonal agricultural work (such as grape picking and crushing) tourism and au pair and hospitality work. Fluency in French will undoubtedly help your application, and taking a temporary job will give you some time to boost your French-speaking skills and tide you over while you search for a more permanent position.

For more information on immigration procedures and working conditions in France, see Working for Expats.

 

 

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