France has long been an extremely popular destination for expats, but finding a job in the nation can seem like a daunting prospect.
To help you on your way, we cover some of the difficulties you’re likely to come across, which positions are most frequently advertised, whether freelancing is a good option and what you can do to make yourself more employable.
For starters, with fairly fierce competition from other European expats and French natives, it’s advisable to play to your strengths when seeking a job. One of your major assets is your native tongue, although you should be aware that many French locals speak English fluently as a second language.
One of the major obstacles for finding work as an expat is the huge competition from French natives. Recent unemployment data showed that joblessness in France is at 10.2%, double the UK’s unemployment rate of 5.1% (as of April 2016). With unemployment this high it’s unsurprising that finding work in France is not always straightforward. It is fair to say, however, that the level of joblessness in France isn’t as high as in other European nations. When you compare it with Spain’s 21.0% unemployment rate, for example, it doesn’t seem quite so bad!
That being said, it should be noted that the youth unemployment rate in France is around 24.6%. Whilst this is by no means ideal, it is again less of a concern than in nations like Spain and Greece, where youth unemployment is touching 50%.
France has around 39% competent English speakers, a much higher rate than many European countries. As a result, the competition for English-speaking jobs is higher than in countries like Spain, for example. However this should not discourage you as often employers require advanced English communication and written skills that few natives can produce.
But it’s important to note that while English speaking positions in countries like Spain or Germany may not demand mastery of the native language, many jobs offered to English speakers in France will require you to have a decent grounding in French. This is especially true in places that aren’t considered tourist hotspots.
For those with a degree from an English University, finding high paid work could prove easier than for applicants from other European countries. This is especially true of those looking for work in finance or banking, as English is the international language of business.
Some of the highest paid jobs currently advertised for English speakers are in insurance underwriting. However, most of these jobs require a high level of French language understanding. Admin and project manager work also fetch a large salary.
On most websites, the highest frequency of jobs advertised are categorised under the IT and Telecoms sections.
Although not regularly advertised, one top tip for finding work in France is to look at embassies for English speaking nations. This may still require knowledge of the French language, but a lesser competency may be acceptable.
Another job often advertised to expats is a moving coordinator. As an English speaker you will be better placed to communicate with your clients, and as an expat you will have experience of moving abroad. These are skills highly sought after by employers.
Given France’s comparatively high unemployment and youth unemployment rates, finding unskilled work can prove far more difficult. For those wishing to do retail or bar work, tourist hotspots such as Paris will be your best bet as there is a higher demand for English speakers.
Disneyland Paris is also a very large employer of multiple nationalities, though competition for positions can be fierce. Those who are competent in English are often best placed to secure a job in the theme park.
Many employers running factory-based businesses do not see English language as a pre-requisite, so you may find you have more success if you look for work that takes advantage of your native tongue.
Self-employment and freelance work is becoming increasingly popular for expats, especially as France has an ‘Auto-Entrepreneur’ scheme for foreign nationals. The scheme is designed to cut out a great deal of ‘red tape’ and allows you to delay paying taxes or charges. On the face of it this seems a great deal, especially as employers welcome those on the scheme with open arms.
However, the reason that employers are so pleased to offer work to those on the scheme is that they avoid many of the charges associated with contracts. This is significant because it limits your rights as an employee and maximises employer power.
This is a major pitfall, and using this scheme should only be considered if you are confident that work will be flowing and secure. Many expats employed in language schools have found that they can be easily fired without a contract. What’s more, many have complained about long delays to wage payment.
“The government knows a lot of language schools employ teachers on an auto-entrepreneur basis when really they should be putting them on their payroll. These teachers can suddenly get caught in the crossfire when authorities decide to audit a school,” lawyer Jean Taquet says.
Compared to many European countries, France is slightly more reluctant to include multiple languages on signs or on food labels, for example. It is very advisable, therefore, to have a decent grounding in French before making a move to the nation.
Whilst it is not crucial to be a French speaker, finding work will be much easier if you can converse in the local language. For those with little to no French, finding a job in a tourism-driven area or expat town will likely be your only choice.
One major positive for those learning the lingo is that French has comparatively fewer dialects than other European languages and only one official language. When compared with Spain’s many regional dialects, this makes finding a job less restrictive.
Given the mass of news coverage and the importance of the vote, you are likely well aware that Britain will soon be choosing whether or not to remain a member of the European Union. If the UK votes to leave, the ramifications could be significant.
One of the major changes we could see in the event of a ‘Brexit’ would affect those seeking work in Europe. At present, EU membership allows for free movement among member states. This means that you are perfectly within your rights to move to another country and seek work without the need for a visa or major paperwork. This is not the case for non-EU members.
Additionally, expats currently enjoy the benefits an EU country offers as if they were citizens, something that will almost certainly change in the event of a ‘Brexit’.
There are a number of websites dedicated to English expats seeking work in France. It is worth remembering, however, that many unskilled jobs will not be advertised internationally so you may be required to already live in France to seek those jobs.
One very useful website is The Local because it gives up-to-date French news in English. It also has plenty of useful advice for expats seeking work and goes into greater detail regarding schemes like ‘auto entrepreneur’.
Here is a list of some of the more popular sites that are used frequently by French employers:
Reed.co.uk have many jobs listed that can be sported by category, salary and distance. At present the vast majority of French jobs listed on Reed are in the IT and telecoms sector.
For those looking for work in the Capital, Jobsinparis has several jobs advertised for English speakers.
The above websites are perhaps the most used by French employers, but there are a huge number of other sites dedicated to English speaking jobs in France. Just typing that phrase in your preferred search engine is likely to provide you with several listings.
So, the most important thing to remember when seeking a job in France is that it may not be an easy task. Take advantage of your language skills and do all you can to have a good basic understanding of French. Whilst it is naturally preferable to have a job set up before you move there are several unskilled job roles only advertised locally. Be prepared to look further afield than your preferred area, and don’t be too picky.
It would be advisable, where possible, to have a decent chunk of savings to support you whilst job seeking as the process can take longer than you might think. It would also be advisable, where possible, to wait for the conclusion of the June 23rd EU referendum vote as the outcome may have significant ramifications for British expats.
Now all that’s left to say is good luck!
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