Finding work in France

Finding work in France

Janet Langman offers her expertise with this beginner’s guide to making money in the French system


In the UK, around 14% of the economically active population have chosen to go the route of self-employment, whereas in France the percentage has hovered around 9% for the past three years. One of the major reasons why the French are not as attracted to the self-employment option are the infamous social charges.

Depending on the type of activity you will be performing, you must register with the appropriate governmental department. For example, a retail business comes under the Chambre de Commerce; an artisanal activity under the Chambre de Métiers. It is very important that you take the advice of an accountant who can advise you where you need to register and under which tax regime you should work. Social charges are levied on your income and represent your contribution to your retirement and health benefits.

While in the UK if you do not make a profit on your activity you do not pay tax, in France there is always a minimum amount of social charges to pay. This amount will vary according to your type of activity and you will receive a payments schedule at the end of your first year. As an estate agent, for example, social charges are around 30% of earned income. Income tax (taxe professionnelle) is calculated annually on financial results.

Pay as you earn does not exist in France and everyone – salaried and non-salaried – completes an income tax return for their calendar-year earnings.


The first place to look for work is the job centre ( You can search by commune, department and job type.

The next port of call should be the local paper. Look online for the digital edition belonging to the area in which you are interested in working. Sud Ouest ( covers Aquitaine and runs job ads on Wednesdays. From the small ads, you can see the types of small businesses which are common in the local area. Gardening, cleaning and ironing are the most commonly seen ads in the Béarn edition.

If you’d rather register as a temp, Adecco and Manpower have agencies throughout France and you can check online for their latest offers. They are particularly useful if you are looking for seasonal work such as grape picking, maize harvesting and factory work.

Work on holiday camps and in ski resorts is frequently available but experience is always required and if you are working with young people you will need a BAFA qualification (Brevet d’Aptitude aux Fonctions d’Animateur).

For anything other than seasonal work, you will generally need to be able to speak fluent French and you must have a professional translation of your qualifications/CV.

Despite the lack of native English speakers working as language teachers in schools, it is not easy to get employment in the state school system. An alternative, if you are a qualified teacher, is to apply to an international school. A useful place to start your search for finding work in the education sector is the International Baccalaureate Organisation ( Another alternative is to train as a TEFL teacher although employment opportunities will be limited outside the major cities.


The key to running any successful business is good planning. How much money do you need to earn on a monthly basis? Look at your skills and be realistic about how much you can earn from them. Choose your area to fit your skills and the work available, plan your budget and have options to fall back on.

Time put into doing research is vital. Talk to people working in the same area and doing a similar business to the one you intend to operate. Post on forums and try to find ways of talking to locals who are already running successful enterprises. The Complete France, AngloInfo and Survive France networks are good places to start and have many interest groups.

The government statistics site INSEE (Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques) will give you a valuable insight into the demographics of each region as well as its socio-economic makeup.


A very popular option is to run a gîte or chambres d’hôte. The going rate in my local area for a night in a chambres d’hôte is 60 euros a night for a double room. Between June and September, The occupancy rate is high between June and September though can be more sporadic out of season.

The same applies to gîtes. It is easy to be full in summer. The key is to attract people out of season. Look into what your area can offer during the rest of the year. Get in contact with local people who run activity programmes or interest courses and ask them to refer people to you.

I have talked to a number of local gîte and chambres d’hôte owners and, with only one exception, the revenue they receive during the year is complementary to their other incomes and is insufficient to live on on a long term basis. The exception is a couple who run a maison de maître with four gîtes. The accommodation is beautiful, there is a very large swimming pool and the grounds consists of a country park. If you are thinking of buying an existing business, look into the local competition and find out why the people are selling. Always ask to see the accounts.


Another way to earn income from property is to let out long term. You may choose to let it furnished, in which case the rental period can be up to a year. At the end of the period stipulated, the contract terminates and can be renewed by the property owner. The tenant does not acquire any rights to stay in the property. One successful property owner in my area rents out her Biarritz apartments to catering college students during the academic year and then to holidaymakers during the peak season.

If you choose to let your property unfurnished then the contract runs for a three-year period which automatically renews. The owners can ask the tenants to leave under very limited conditions: to occupy the property themselves, to sell, to do major work or in the case of non-payment of rent. The law protects the tenants and it is advisable to rent through an estate agency who will provide insurance against damages to your property and non-payment of rent. Written notice can only be given six months before the end of the three-year rental period.

Rental demand is high in France across all ages and income brackets. The local estate agencies usually have a rental arm and their websites give a good indication of how much a given property would rent out for. To calculate the return on investment, divide the annual rental income by the total cost of the property (including purchase costs, the notaire’s fees and renovation costs) and multiply by 100. Anything above 6% is good.

Janet Langman is based in Pyrénées-Atlantiques and has been running an independent estate agency since 2004

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