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Working in France vs Working in the UK

As the winter nights draw in, the thought of working in sunnier surroundings can often appeal. Around a quarter of a million Brits have chosen to emigrate to France, and although large parts of the country have a similar climate, it still holds a certain je ne sais quoi that lures so many of us across the Channel. It's not all baguettes and fine wine though, so it is important to know the facts before upping sticks.  


The unemployment rate in France recently reached a sixteen year high at 10.9%. However, the demand for native English speakers, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sectors may make the prospects for British migrants a little less gloomy, especially if they already speak French.    In contrast, the UK unemployment rate recently fell to a three year low of 7.6%. There has however been a sharp rise in the number of workers in part-time roles rather than full-time employment, so the statistics may not paint quite the rosy picture they appear to.   


The EU Working Time Directive states that no worker can be required to work for more than 48 hours a week. However, France has introduced its own limit at 35 hours. (Reduced from 39 in 2000.) French workers are generally entitled to five weeks of paid leave per year worked in addition to eleven public holidays.   The average working week in the UK is 43.6 hours, the highest in Europe and compared to a European average of 40.3. UK workers are generally entitled to 28 days holiday per year worked. There are eight public holidays which an employer can include as statutory annual leave.   


The minimum wage (known as SMIC) in France is currently €9.43 (£7.93) an hour. The minimum wage in the UK is currently £6.31 (€7.51) an hour. There are of course large differences between job types and locations but French salaries are on average slightly higher, whilst key outgoings such as rent and petrol are generally slightly lower.   

With higher salaries, shorter working weeks and more holidays, it's easy to see France's allure. Throw in the famous joie de vivre, fine wine and fine food and the recipe for expat happiness seems simple. It should however be taken with a pinch of salt: It's not all Cabernet Sauvignon on the Cote d'Azur. France has the same social and economic problems as the UK and many Brits find the reality of their French dream spent in the local English bar. All too often we live up to our monolingual stereotype and find it difficult to find work and integrate without speaking the local language. If you do learn French you will reap the rewards. So if you are considering taking a trip across the channel; learn the language, do your research, and make the most of the beautiful country that France is!      


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