Work in France: A Quick Guide to Relocating

The Eiffel Tower in Paris illuminated at night from view across the Seine Shutterstock

No other country has quite mastered the art of seduction better than France. Known for their carefree lifestyle and romantic culture, France lures jobseekers into a life built around charming little patisseries and endless walks by the proverbial French Riviera. But before you jump into the next plane and exclaim ‘oui, oui!’, it’s important to remember that it’s no easy task to work abroad – especially, and quite ironically, in the City of Love.

However, if you’re determined to wake up to a view of the Eiffel Tower (spoiler alert: the rent will cost you an arm and a leg) and eat croissants for the rest of your life, then be sure to read our helpful guide so you know exactly what to expect when moving to France.

General Information

Officially called the Republic of France and located in Western Europe, France is a highly popular country that boasts an average of 89 million visitors each year. As the subject of countless iconic movies, people have fallen in love with the idea of French culture and everything it represents: grace, elegance and a somewhat laissez-faire approach to life. So, it comes to no surprise why so many people dream of moving and living there.

In recent years, however, France has struggled with the problem of unemployment – with young people suffering the most. Indeed, 1 out of 4 people, aged 15 to 24, couldn’t find a job even if they were actively searching for one, according to the Hays Global Skills Index.

Things seem to be getting better, though. At the end of 2017, France’s unemployment rate stood at 8.9%, which was a marked improvement from the year before it, when the rate was at 9.7%. Still, even with the numbers improving, France has yet to stabilise a strained market that remains vulnerable to a flurry of other economic factors.

Due to its unstable economy, job opportunities are harder to come by, especially if you’re an immigrant. Unless you happen to save an infant hanging on for dear life at the edge of a seven-story building, you will have a difficult time finding work. Much like other countries, the French government prioritises its citizens when it comes to employment.

Biggest Sectors

Despite its slow economic growth, France remains one of the most powerful countries in the world –  with over 20 global multinational companies headquartered there. If you’re a college graduate, you have a better chance at getting hired by any one of these giants. Here are just some of them:

  • Total – a French international company that’s considered one of the seven ‘supermajor’ oil companies in the world
  • AXA – one of the most recognised insurance companies globally
  • LVHM – a luxury goods conglomerate that houses some of the most iconic brands, including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Guerlain, Christian Dior and Dom Perignon
  • BNB Paribas – the world’s 8th largest bank by total assets that operates in 75 other countries
  • L'Oréal – the world’s largest cosmetics and personal care company.

Over the years, however, some specific sectors have become more in demand than others. If you plan on moving there, here are the industries you should look out for:

  • research and development
  • IT
  • banking
  • insurance
  • health and social work.


The minimum wage in France is fairly competitive compared to other EU countries. The country’s hourly rate also slightly increased at the beginning of 2018. From €9.76 (£8.53), it moved up to €9.88 (£8.63) which is roughly equivalent to a salary of €1,498 (£1,309) per month. (Fun fact: only six other EU member countries pay above €1000 per month – Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.)

Employees’ salaries largely depend on their level of experience and the industry they work in. Most of the country’s highest earners, though, hold the following positions:

Cost of Living

If you’re living in France, you’ll quickly realise that eating a freshly baked baguette comes at a steep price, especially if you’re in Paris. Ranked 25th worldwide in the list of most expensive cities to live in, the cost of living in Paris is high, primarily due to premium real estate value. For instance, a one-bedroom apartment inside the city centre can cost an average of €1,102 (£963), but you can save a few hundred Euro by moving away from it. Outside the city centre, the same-sized apartment can go as low as €836 (£731).

But don’t give up on that view of the Eiffel Tower just yet; there are also some benefits to working in Paris. It is the ideal location for walking or cycling, especially if your work is nearby. Local transportation is good, people are generally friendly (provided your French is good) and even if you have to spend a few more Euro, the breath-taking sites are well worth the extra expense.

Working Conditions

While finding employment in France can be very challenging, the working conditions are at par with most global standards. As a matter of fact, French labour laws are very protective of its workforce. Employees are only required to work a total of 35 hours a week, and each working day shouldn’t exceed 10 hours. Also, employees are required to take breaks every 4.5 hours and have a right to paid leave even after just 1 month of working.  

France is also one of the first countries to recognise the problem of too much connectivity. In 2016, they ushered in a new law that allows employees the ‘right to disconnect’, which prohibits workers from answering work-related emails and phone calls.

Finding a Job

Since there are many multinational companies present in France, it’s not unlikely that you will find a local counterpart in your own country. If that’s the case, one of the more practical and safer ways of relocating to France would be to try and work your way up inside the local company. If you do well enough, there’s a chance that you will be moved to the main headquarters.

To stand out, make sure that you learn the language. Even if it’s a multinational company, employers will always prefer someone who is fluent in French, rather than one who isn’t.

If there are no local counterparts where you’re from or if you really want to relocate as soon as possible, be on the lookout for possible vacancies online. But if you’re already living in France, you may want to check out local newspapers. Some small companies also offer apprenticeships; while they don’t pay as much, it at least gets your foot in the door, and that’s always better than nothing.

Visa and Work Permits

If you’re a citizen of an EU country or of Switzerland, then working in France shouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, everyone else must first get a job offer before they’re given a visa or residence permit. This process is usually arranged by the employer.

There are other kinds of residence permits and visas available in France, and depending on which category you fall under, each one will have its own set of different requirements.

Even with its many economic challenges, France remains one of the most coveted places to work in. As a country that takes pride in putting the mental and emotional wellbeing of its employees first, it is the ideal location for anyone who values work-life balance.

So, if you think you have what it takes to beat the odds, then as the old French saying goes: qui vivra verra! (S/he who lives shall see!)

Have you ever thought about moving to France? Join the discussion by leaving a comment below!


Cost of living data is compiled and published by Numbeo. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by on 15 June 2018.