France Labor Market

More than three out of four employees are employed in the service sector. Unemployment has long been high in France compared to other Western European countries, almost 10 percent on average even in fairly good times. The strike weapon is used quite often, but less than a tenth of the employees are unionized.

Unemployment has long been high in France compared to other Western European countries, almost 10 percent on average. Youth unemployment is estimated at almost 25 percent. The Government has taken several measures during the 2010s to reduce unemployment, including by subsidizing employers who employ young unemployed people. In the mid-2010s, it was announced that two billion euros would be used over a two-year period to partly contribute to companies that employ jobseekers and to increase investment in vocational training. At the same time, new legislation was passed that relaxed rigid labor law rules that have prevented employers from daring to hire new employees and made it possible for individual companies to decide more on wages and working hours.).

The French trade union movement is weak and politically divided; less than a tenth of the employees are union members. Despite this, strikes and trade union protests are common, especially in the large public sector. In 2007, the strike right is cut and the strikers no longer have any right to pay while they strike.

From 2000, the 35-hour work week began to be introduced. From 2008 it became possible for the social partners to make up their own working hours, even though the 35-hour week was a minimum level.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of France, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.

France Population



9.1 percent (2019)

Youth Unemployment

21.0 percent (2019)



Judgment against Lagarde

December 20

IMF chief Christine Lagarde is guilty of negligence according to a French court, but she receives no legal remedy. The IMF Board declares that it has continued confidence in Lagarde. The French government also supports Lagarde. The verdict concerns Lagarde’s involvement in the payment of EUR 400 million to businessman Bernard Tapie (see December 2015).

The state of emergency is extended

December 16th

The National Assembly and Senate are voting to extend the state of emergency until July 15, 2017.

Prime Minister Valls resigns

December 6

He also announces that he wants to stand as presidential candidate for the Socialist Party in the elections. He will thus take part in the party’s primary elections in January. New prime minister becomes Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

Hollande does not stand for re-election

1 December

President Hollande announces his decision not to run for re-election. He has very low support among the French.


Fillon becomes the Republican presidential candidate

November 27th

After the second round of the Republican primary, it is clear that he defeated Juppé and received just over two-thirds of the vote.

Sarkozy loses the Republican primary election

20th of November

Francois Fillon wins the most votes in the Republican primary for the post of presidential candidate in 2017. Two are Alain Juppé. The two former prime ministers will meet in a decisive election round on November 27. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy admits.

Macron is running for president

November 16

Emmanuel Macron announces that he will stand in the presidential election as an independent candidate.

Jadot becomes the green candidate

November 7

Former Greenpeace activist Yannick Jadot is elected by the EELV as a candidate in the 2017 presidential election.




Sarkozy wants to stand in the 2017 presidential election

22 August

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy announces that he is campaigning to become the Republican presidential candidate. He will step down as party leader to fully devote himself to the upcoming elections. Party colleague Laurent Wauquiez is expected to take over the party leader post.

Burkini ban is causing debate

Cannes faces a ban on burkini, a comprehensive swimsuit popular in many Muslim countries, and follows a handful of other French cities. The ban is met by outraged reactions from other Muslim organizations, who call it a rash of Islamophobia. Prime Minister Valls and other politicians, however, are positive about the decision because they feel that Burkinin is not compatible with the country’s secular values. At the end of the month, the Supreme Administrative Court, after reviewing the French city of Villenueve-Loubet’s Burkini ban, states that this is illegal.


Terrorists kill priest

July 26

France is experiencing another terrorist attack when two men enter a church in the city of Rouen, northern France, cutting the throat of an 84-year-old priest and taking four others hostage. Another hostage person is seriously injured before the drama dissolves and the hostage killers are killed by an anti-terrorist force. The Islamic State announces that the terrorists were acting on their behalf.

Lagarde is prosecuted

A court decides to prosecute Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF. The charge concerns her actions in connection with a state payment when she, as finance minister in 2007, would resolve a dispute between the businessman Bernard Tapie and the state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais (see December 2015).

Weapons to Iraq

July 22nd

President Hollande announces that, from August, France will
send weapons and instructors to the Iraqi government as a support in the fight against the Islamic State, IS. France also plans to send a hangar ship to the region in September.

Five people are charged with terrorist offenses

July 22nd

Four men and one woman are charged with terrorist offenses. Police say the Nice Massacre offender “had logistical support” before the attack was carried out.

The state of emergency is extended

July 20

The National Assembly and the Senate vote to extend the state of emergency throughout the country by six months.

At least 84 dead in mass murder in Nice

July 14

When the French in the evening celebrate their national day at the beach in Nice, a 31-year-old Frenchman of Tunisian descent plows with a truck straight through the crowd for two kilometers along the promenade. At least 84 people are killed, including ten children, and more than 300 are injured. The deaths come from twelve different countries, but not Sweden. 30 of the victims are Muslims. The offender is shot to death by the police when he starts shooting around. The perpetrator appears to have a criminal background, but he is not known in the intelligence services as a radical Islamist or terrorist. IS takes on the blame for the deed, but that task is not confirmed by any independent source. However, the perpetrator must have been radicalized quickly in recent times.

Seven men are jailed for conspiring with IS

July 6

Seven men are sentenced to between six and nine years in prison for recruiting and training IS fighters in Syria.

Prosecution for aiding terrorism

July 6

Two men are indicted in a French court for helping suspected terrorist Salah Abdeslam flee to Brussels following the Paris attacks on November 13, 2015.

Prohibition of denial of genocide

July 1st

The National Assembly unanimously adopts a law that prohibits denial of all kinds of crimes against humanity. The law is a sequel to the bill passed in January 2012, which made it punishable to deny the claim that the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) committed a Armenian genocide in 1915. That bill was almost immediately annulled by the Constitutional Court, which said it violated freedom of expression. The new bill is less specific and includes denial of genocide, war crimes and slavery. After the vote in the National Assembly, the proposal should go to the Senate.


Policeman killed in terrorist act

June 13th

A man who claims to have ties to the Islamic State (IS) is killing a police officer in Magnanville outside Paris. Even a woman is killed by the man. The Interior Minister considers the act a terrorist attack.


The conflict is escalating

When the left-wing trade union CGT chooses to enter the fight against the government in protest against labor market reform and how it has been pushed through, the consequences for society quickly become serious. CGT members launch strikes on 16 of the country’s 19 nuclear power plants, which provide the country with three-quarters of the electricity. Strikes are ongoing at several oil refineries, leading to a large shortage of fuel at the country’s gas stations. Port workers in several major ports also strike, as do employees in train traffic.

The government wins the vote of no confidence

May 12

A vote requested by the opposition for the purpose of overthrowing the government and its labor law reform may not receive enough support from the National Assembly (246 votes against the government, but 288 would have been needed for the declaration of confidence to have gone through). The fact that the government pushed the labor market reform leads to upset reactions even in the streets of Paris and other large cities, where thousands of people demonstrate the following days.

The government is pursuing labor market reform

May 10

Hollande and his government are implementing changes in labor law without voting in the National Assembly under a special law that makes this possible. The reform can only be rejected if the government loses a vote of confidence in the National Assembly.

The militant separatist group FLNC in Corsica is ending its military struggle

May 3

Corsica’s national liberation front has been trying to achieve independence for Corsica since the 1970s with military means. From October 22, it now ends its armed struggle. The reason is that it wants Corsica’s new legislative assembly to work in peace.


France will build new submarines for Australia

April 29

The French shipbuilder DCNS makes a huge deal when the company is commissioned by Australia to build 12 new submarines. The contract is worth $ 50 billion. Prime Minister Valls announces that the deal is so important that he himself will oversee the project.

About 20 police officers are injured in demonstrations

April 28

Tens of thousands of people are demonstrating in Paris, Marseille and several other major cities against the proposals to change labor laws. Hundreds of violent activists are arrested in connection with demonstrations following clashes with police.

Salah Abdeslam is being charged for involvement in the Paris attack.

April 27

He is charged with, for example, murder, weapons possession and conspiracy with a terrorist organization.

Protests about to degenerate

April 17

So-called Nuit Debout demonstrations (roughly “Up at Night”) which began as peaceful protests in March (see March 2016) against the government’s proposal to change labor market legislation are becoming more violent. At least 3,000 young protesters have occupied parts of downtown Paris (Place de la Republique) every night in protest of labor market reforms that are considered to threaten workers’ rights. The protesters consist of several different groups, but mainly well-educated middle class, who are united in criticism of the elite. Clashes between police and masked activists have become more common and 400 people have been arrested so far.

Weak support for Hollande

April 16

An opinion poll shows that President Hollande would only get 15 percent of the vote if he chooses to run in the 2017 presidential election. Hollande has said he will announce whether he will run for election by the end of 2016.

Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron forms his own political movement

Macron’s movement is called En Marche (Forward!) And, according to the minister, it should neither belong to the left nor to the right. President Hollande and government ministers respond with indications that Macron must do his job and be loyal to Hollande and the government.

Suspected terrorist acts in Paris should be extradited from Belgium

Salah Abdeslam, (see March 2016) will be extradited from Belgium after he was first interrogated for participation in another act. Salah Abdeslam is then released on April 27th.


Proposals for constitutional amendments fall

President Hollande announces that he will not proceed with the proposals to amend the constitution so that convicted terrorists could lose their French citizenship. His decision to release the controversial proposal comes after the Senate adopted a different version of the constitutional proposal than the National Assembly previously adopted. The National Assembly had deleted a word that only dual citizenship terrorists would lose their citizenship, while the Senate retained it.

Suspected of the terrorist act in Paris is arrested

March 18th

Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the only survivor of the perpetrators, has been on the run since the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 (see November) arrested in Brussels.

Protests against labor market reforms

The government’s proposal to make it easier for employers to hire and kick employees leads to demonstrations across the country. Among those protesting are high school students and environmental activists as well as university students and teachers. The demonstrations spread across the country and continue throughout the month.

New refugee camp opens

March 9

A refugee camp that meets higher standards and meets international requirements opens outside Calais. The camp has 200 heated cabins and real toilets and showers. Doctors Without Borders are behind the camp with support from the French state.

Violent when refugee camps outside Calais are to be evacuated

March 1st

French authorities’ attempt to empty and close a refugee camp (called the jungle) outside Calais in northwestern France ends in chaos and violence. The close to 5,000 refugees in the camp protest the police treatment by throwing stones at them and setting fire to several sheds. Some refugees try to stop traffic on a road a short distance from the camp. The police respond to the protests with tear gas. French activists take the refugees’ party and carry out a sit-down strike, they sit on hiding roofs and refuse to move. Hundreds of refugees try to move on to Belgium, which has, however, closed the border with France. Some of the displaced refugees are offered places in a newly built camp next door. But it is uncertain if they will fit in the new camp.


Sarkozy subject to new legal investigation

The former president is suspected of breaking the law by spending more money than allowed in his election campaign. Sarkozy is already being investigated for involvement in several other scandals and corruption deals, including receiving money from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for his 2007 election campaign.

The state of emergency is extended

In a vote, the National Assembly approves a proposal, which the Senate has already agreed to, to extend the state of emergency introduced after the terrorist attacks in November 2015 to May 26.

Internal criticism of Hollande

February 25th

In a debate article in Le Monde, 17 left-wing politicians strongly criticize Hollande for his policy of “weakening the country”.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius resigns

February 10

Fabius has been nominated by President Hollande to chair the Constitutional Court. He is succeeded shortly afterwards at the Foreign Minister post by Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Cooperation with Belgium

February 1st

The French and Belgian Prime Ministers decide to cooperate more closely on counter-terrorism.


The economy is growing

GDP grew by 1.1 percent in 2015, official statistics show. It is the strongest growth in four years.

The Minister of Justice resigns

Christiane Taubira resigns as Minister of Justice in protest of the plans for terrorists with dual citizenship to lose their position as French citizens.

Increase in asylum applications

January 1st

Nearly 80,000 migrants applied for asylum in 2015 according to official statistics. This is an increase of one-fifth compared to the previous year.

France Labor Market