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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.1 General Context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Labour market situation in the country
  2. Main concepts


Labour market situation in the country


Evolution of the labour market

Over the last half century, the French labour market has undergone numerous far-reaching changes. Although employers and trade-union representations play preeminent roles in regulating the labour market by organising work relations, drawing up a regulatory framework and, in particular, through introduction and arbitration of rules and laws, the public authorities also play a part in regulation. Among other things, their position is expressed by the  promotion of employment along with a determination to limit underemployment and unemployment.

The French labour market has seen a good many structural changes over the past 60 years, including an increase in numbers of salaried workers, major orientation towards the tertiary sector and a measure of feminisation. 

For example, in 2021, according to the French economy dashboard (tableau de bord de l'économie française) of the INSEE, 87.4% of employment is salaried, 76.1% is in the service sector, and 41% is female. This rate is falling slightly (48% in 2020). Of the women in employment in France, 87.8% work in the service sector (65.1% for men).

Moreover, the emergence of persistent unemployment from the mid-1970s onwards has made it more difficult for young people to enter the labour market, as they are significantly affected by economic fluctuations. When young people have a job, it is usually temporary. In 2022, 16.3% of 15-24 year olds were unemployed, a higher percentage than the 7.3% unemployment rate for all working people on a national scale.

Young people and particular forms of employment

Types of contracts

“Special forms of employment” (fixed-term contracts, temping, subsidised contracts and apprenticeships) have been developed and are the main form of occupation for young people.  At the present time, over half of all jobs occupied by the 15-24 y/o age bracket were “special forms of employment”, compared with one in six jobs in 1982.

This French labour market is characterised by the presence of employees on “short” contracts and permanent contracts.

As a matter of fact, according to the INSEE article, Short-term contracts: insecurity traps or springboards for a career?  (O. Bonnet, S. Georges-Kot and P. Pora) published in July 2019,  “career paths for salaried employees show that the job market is divided between, on one hand, a majority of salaried employees with stable jobs in permanent contracts and, on the other hand, a growing minority of increasingly short contracts.




The situation of young people in France

In 2022, the rate of young people aged 15-29 neither in employment nor in training (NEET) is 11.8%. This rate, which was 12.3% at the end of 2019, peaked in mid-2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic (15.8%). In particular, there are long-term NEETs, who have been without training or employment for a year or more and who, in 2021, will account for 48% of this category.

Not all young people are confronted with unemployment in the same way, young people with few or no qualifications are much more exposed, as are those living in urban areas in difficulty covered by the urban policy. This public policy aims to reduce territorial inequalities by targeting disadvantaged urban areas as a priority. According to the 2022 report of the National Observatory for Urban Policy (Observatoire national de la politique de la ville), the unemployment rate for the 15-29 year-old category residing in priority urban policy neighbourhoods is 30.4% (compared to 30.7% in 2019).

In 2018 (latest data), among young people who have been out of initial training for one to four years and are in employment

- 6.2% are self-employed

- 32.6% are in paid employment for a limited period

- 61.2% are in permanent paid employment.

The rate of young people who have been out of initial training for one to four years and who are in employment for a limited period has increased since 2009 (28.5% in 2009 compared to 32.6% in 2018).

The health crisis "has largely degraded the employability of young people": in 2021, 69% of graduates with a baccalaureate level + 5 from the class of 2019 found a job within a year of leaving the school system, compared to 85% for the class of 2018.

The gross annual salary of young people also fell by 3% between 2019 and 2021.

In 2020, 40% of students were working alongside their studies - of these, 65% considered it a 'choice' rather than a necessity. This statistic concerns both students on courses and trainees (in 2020, the average gratification for trainees was 935 euros per month, a decrease of 9.7% compared to 2019).

In 2020, 36% of students surveyed by the National Observatory of Student Life (Observatoire national de la vie étudiante) said they had had to interrupt their parallel professional activity.

Apprenticeships offer young students a route to financial independence by providing a salary of between €410.70 and €1,522 gross per month, which can be accumulated with specific grants. Apprenticeship is also a source of professional integration for young graduates. According to a study by the Directorate for Research, Studies and Statistics (DARES) of the Ministry in charge of Employment, in January 2022, six months after leaving school in 2021, "65% of apprentices with a vocational aptitude certificate (CAP) to a higher technician's certificate (BTS) are in paid employment in the private sector".

Furthermore, in the context of the COVID-19 health crisis, the authorities responsible for youth policy are taking care to reduce the impact of the crisis on the ability of young people to enter the labour market.


Studies on youth employment

Studies on the job market and the entry of young people into the workplace are regularly conducted by public institutions for statistics and policy evaluation, such as the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, Department for the Organisation of Research, Studies and Statistics (Direction de l’animation de la recherche, des études et des statistiques) or the National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (indicative list).


National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE)

INSEE’s objective is to collect, analyse and spread information about the job market. Every year, it evaluates the employment and unemployment rates in France, particularly by age group, and regularly produces national or regional data on the situation of young people and on dedicated youth employment policies.


Department for the Organisation of Research, Studies and Statistics (DARES)

DARES is part of the Ministry of Labour and responsible for producing analyses, studies and statistics on labour, employment, vocational training and social affairs. Some of these works cover youth entry into the labour market.


National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (See chapter 1)

Professional integration, youth employment policies and reports on young people and work are the focus of studies and research by the National Institute of Youth and Non-Formal Education (INJEP).  The objective of INJEP is to “contribute to improving knowledge of these fields by producing statistics and analyses, observations, trials and evaluations”.



Main concepts

Among main concepts defined, can be underlined :

The employment rate measures the use of available workforce resources. It is calculated by dividing the number of employed workers by the working-age population. (OECD definition).

The labour force comprises employed workers and the unemployed.

The activity rate corresponds to the number of workers compared with the whole working-age population. The indicator is expressed as a percentage of each age bracket. (OECD definition).

Furthermore, several notions, concepts and economic sector enable better understanding of the youth labour market including: labour legislation and, more specifically, the French Labour Code (Code du travail), the notion of support and, to a lesser extent, the vocational sector of the Social and Fair Economy.

Labour legislation

The French labour market stands out for the important role played by the law. The provisions and rules governing employment and professional relations are grouped together in the Labour Code. Created by the Law of 28 December 1910, it comprises all legislative and regulatory texts applicable to labour law. Above all, it organises individual and collective work conditions and relationshipssocial dialogue, safety in the workplace, employees’ health, and professional training, and, because it does so, is constantly evolving in line with changes in the world of work, incorporating new laws, in particular ones resulting from collective negotiations.

The Labour Code specifies, for example, that differences in professional “treatment” based on age “do not constitute discrimination when they are objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate goal, in particular by a concern to preserve workers’ health or safety or foster their professional integration […]”.

By setting minimum rights and “maximum” obligations applicable to all employees, the Labour Code constitutes an essential and fundamental source of labour law.



Support (accompaniment)

Since the 2000s, this practice and concept have been used to draft employment policies targeting young people in particular. The notion of support covers a relationship with others whose aim is to foster the socialisation” and the “empowerment”. Support for “young people” is most often provided at a specific time, a period of rupture, difficulty or challenge that requires assistance or support of some kind. It is expressed by personalisation of treatment of young jobseekers, through construction of personalised professional projects and monitoring of the young people concerned. Support is based on a reinforced partnership between public and voluntary actors. This practice is regarded as having positive and significant effects on return to work and entry onto the labour market. A wide range of support schemes are on offer to French youth, including:

  • The Youth commitment contract (formerly known as the "Youth Guarantee") offers young people aged 16 to 26 intensive support, training and integration solutions for young people who are neither in training, education nor employment. (See Chapter 3.6) Young people can receive an allowance of up to 520 euros.
  • The Personalized Project for Access to Employment, a measure implemented by Pôle emploi (public employment service) that the jobseeker draws up with his or her advisor, who must accompany the jobseeker until he or she returns to work.
  • Integration via Economic Activity Structures (SIAEs – structures d’insertion par l’activité économique), which are designed to encourage return to work on the part of the most fragile people, those furthest removed from the labour market, by providing them with the possibility of concluding a work contract involving personalised accompaniment.
  • The 1 young person 1 solution plan, designed to offer personalised guidance and integration solutions to young people, including mentoring and assistance with contract entry.


The Social and Fair Economy

The other notion that takes account of the evolution of the youth labour market in France is that of the Social and Fair Economy  (Economie sociale et solidaire ESS) an expanding economic sector that is progressively arousing young people’s interest and which is based on a number of important principles: “a purpose of general and collective interest, democratic governancefree adherence, territorial anchoring, citizen engagement and, above all, limited profit motive”. Recognised by Law no.2014-856 of 31 July 2014 bearing on the SSE, the sector aims to develop jobs and participate in social cohesion. Surveys  and qualitative enquiries show that young people believe in the values highlighted by the ESS, which is why the public authorities are keen to promote the sector in their eyes (See.3.11).The social and fair economy is mainly composed of five families: mutuals, cooperatives, associations, foundations and commercial enterprises of social utility.  Associations remain the largest employers in the SSE, followed by cooperatives.