International economic organisation says France is not attractive to skilled workers

by Ray Clancy on November 23, 2017

Paris has been named as one of the worst cities in the wold in terms of welcoming expats and now a major international organisation says that France is not an attractive place to work.

A hard hitting report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says that France ranks eighth behind the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Spain for attractiveness among the most highly qualified migrants.

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It points the finger at France’s notorious red tape and singles out the country’s complex administration system, low wages and it high cost of living in particular for making people not want to move there.

The report says France needs to modernise and improve her immigration system, particularly relating to worker from outside the European Union and suggests fairly simple changes such as updating the list of professions where there is a shortage of skilled workers.

France could also do more to hang on to foreign students once they have graduated by being more welcoming and offering guidance to foreign students in higher education establishments, in order to maximise their chances of successful integration into the labour market

The report points out that despite a recent increase, the labour migration of non-EU nationals remains low in France by international standards, accounting for just 16% in 2016 and this observation should be seen in the context of total immigration which is also low compared to the size of the French population.

‘While direct entries of foreign workers are relatively limited, the contribution made by immigration to the French labour market needs to be seen in a wider context. Family migration and EU nationals each contribute at least twice as many people to the labour market as labour migration from non-EU countries,’ the report says.

Like most countries in the OECD, France has a full range of administrative services to assess foreigners’ employment situation before granting a work permit. The OECD’s report shows that the procedures for granting work permits are complex and are governed by rules that differ between regions.

Applicants must have received a job offer with the same conditions enjoyed by other workers, in addition to which their application may also be subjected to an examination of the employment situation to check whether there are other workers legally residing in France, either foreign or French, who might be available for the job in question.

Since 2008, it has not been mandatory to examine the employment situation if the occupation is one of those appearing on a list of shortage occupations, given the regional situation of the labour market. But the report points out that this list has not been amended since it was first compiled and just 15% of occupations listed are still facing a nationwide shortage, while many real recruitment needs are excluded such as in the care and health sectors.

France is given praise for last year’s introduction of the passeport talent which allows longer stays for skilled workers, reduced the number of prefecture visits required, abolished the rule allowing an immigrant’s employment situation to prevent him or her accessing the labour market, and creating new categories for investors and start-ups.

But the OECD says the jury is out on how effective this policy change will be and there is room to improve the co-ordination and promotion of the system and its success will depend largely on the resources deployed to transfer skills to consulates and prefectures, the implementation of a co-ordinated inter-ministerial policy and more proactive communication with employers and foreign talents.

On the specific issue of foreign students remaining in France after completing their studies, the report shows that they are underrepresented in occupations that are struggling to recruit and their integration into the labour market in the medium term is not always as successful as expected.

The report therefore suggests expanding the systems in place for welcoming and offering guidance to foreign students in higher education establishments, in order to maximise their chances of successful integration into the labour market, whether in France or in their country of origin.

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