France is one of the powerhouses of the European Union and still attracts so much interest from foreign residents looking to relocate overseas. The country has a truly unique and fashion entirely its own often mentioned in the same breath as Italy as a popular country for romantic rendezvous and getaways.
There is however a lot to France behind the scenes, with culture, art and architecture once again coming to fore. This country certainly has much to offer both in terms of employment and everyday life as it has a deeply ingrained faith in the freedom of speech, which forms the basis of French law and culture. These are some of the reasons why the Expat community living in France flourishes and thrives by the day.
France is one of the true metropolitan countries of the world, as it integrates into its own a variety of different cultures over the centuries which has in the past resulted in a number of internal disputes. The country is heavily infused with certain elements of religion and culture prevalent in different areas.
The country is well known for its love of the arts and architecture and has a long and great history, taking in revolutions, wars and major changes in the way that the country is run, full, vibrant and headstrong. Its freedom of speech has attracted a number of outspoken and controversial figures to lead its political governance and has placed all areas of society under discussion.
France has been, for many years, a hive of private enterprise with over 2.5 million companies registered in the country. However, the government still maintains a stranglehold on the major industries including defense, transport, insurance and banking, but government is slowly practicing laissez faire, loosening their grip on these major industries.
The working arena is still suffering from the days of massive unemployment over 30 years ago, and France has the lowest percentage of 15 – 64 year olds in work throughout the developed world. This has certainly increased with the current financial recession, as unemployment rates in the first half of 2009 hover around 9.3%. While this is slowly improving there is still a long way to go to compete with the likes of the US, UK and Japan. However, this has left a gap in the market for foreign nationals actively looking for employment, and the fact that French students continue their education for longer than their European counterparts is also of assistance.
Unfortunately the tax situation in France is a lot harsher than other European counterparts, with up to 60% of gross pay being diverted into the French State Benefit system. It is a requirement of French law that either you or your employer register you with the authorities as an official worker in France – failure to comply with the regulations can lead to grave consequences for your long term residency in the country.
The housing market in France has historically been a lot steadier than for example the UK market (and many other European partners). A large number of European residents relocating to France where property prices are on average substantially lower. This has been the trend in 2009 as many property investors are seeking hard bargains for the properties in the market.
However, there is a large difference in pricing, depending on location, with older housing less expensive than new builds (this is a market which has attracted UK buyers, who tend to look for history and character for their properties). Inner city accommodation is obviously the more expensive, with countryside property prices much lower. Widely fluctuating property prices are one less worry when looking to relocate to France.
France has one of the most lucrative and expanding state benefit budgets in the developed world, with little hope of this trend changing in the immediate future. The country has one of the most work force protective benefits systems across Europe, with the jobless well compensated for their lack of genuine income. The latest aspect of this expansion is the creation of the RMI unemployment benefit or the “revenu de solidarte active”.
Unemployment benefit, income support and maternity pay are just some of the major costs to the state benefit system. As the working population can contribute up to 60% of the gross salary to the state, this has often provoked anger from the business community.
The current government is committed to spending million of euros encouraging the unemployed back to work, but with the benefits system ingrained in French society, this will be a long term project. However, this does leave potential for foreign nationals to find employment in France, safe in the knowledge that they will be looked after by the state if they were to lose their employment at any point in the future.
While France has many attractions to foreign nationals looking to relocate, there are a number of areas which need to be addressed. While there are genuine gaps in the employment market which can be exploited by overseas workers, the downside is the taxation situation. The first one France Expat Forum last August 22, 2009 shares the tip that:
“Applying for work kind of depends on what line of work you’re in, and how good your French is. For social security, your employer should sign you up your first day on the job. “
It is easy to see why France has the most foreign visitors of any other country in Europe, but relocating there is a different matter. It requires careful planning and an appreciation of the cultures of this widely differing nation. As one other expat said France Expat Forum last August 19, 2002:
“Life is too short to sit in the rain and under the grey clouds of Belfast!!”
Capital : Paris
Official Language : French
Government : Unitary Republic, with a President and Prime Minister.
Size : 674,843km2
Population : 64.1 million
Currency : Euro / French Franc
International Dialling Code : 33+
Economy : 6th largest in the world
Religion : Mixed (although 51% of the population are Catholics)
France has a significant English speaking expat population, mostly consisting of retired and so-called inactive expats – ie below retirement age, but not in active employment. The workplace in France is very protected, and finding work if you are not a native French speaker will prove difficult. In the Brittany and Dordogne regions there are a high number of English speaking expats, and many people find employment by providing services to this (wealthy) community. Corsica also attracts a certain number of expats, but does not yet offer significant employment possibilities.