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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.1 General Context

Last update: 11 January 2021
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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. 

Actually, for example in 2020, employment has largely been salaried, 76.1% tertiary and is reaching equality, with female employment at 48.3% according to the 2020 issue of the “Tableau de l’économie française” (Overview of the French Economy)  by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, which produces and analyses statistics, especially those related to employment.

In addition, the emergence of persistent unemployment in the mid-1970s has meant young people have been significantly affected by fluctuating conditions making it more difficult for them to enter the labour market. When young people do have a job, it is most often temporary.


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 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).


The situation of young people in France

In the second quarter of 2020, the youth unemployment rate was 21% for 15-24 year olds, 21.4% for men and 20% for women. The employment rate for this age category was 26.6%.

Moreover, young people are not all faced with unemployment in the same way: those with few or no qualifications are a great deal more exposed to it, as are those living in disadvantaged urban areas. 

According to the 2019 report (most recent data available) by the National Observatory of Urban Policy (Observatoire national de la politique de la ville), the unemployment rate for 15-29 year olds living in priority neighbourhoods in urban policy was 32.9%. The Urban Policy  (See Glossary) seeks to reduce territorial inequalities and develop currently disadvantaged urban areas.

In the face of changes in the labour market and the difficulty young people have in integrating into the world of work, their integration has become a major issue in public action, which must meet several challenges: reduce the unemployment rate among young people, lessen existing gaps with regard to young people with few or no qualifications and/or living in disadvantaged urban areas, and finally, make the transition between school (Higher education) and employment easier.

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


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 Solidarity 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:

  • Personalised Employment Access Projects (Projets Personnalisés d'Accès à l'Emploi) run by the government employment service : Pôle Emploi, which jobseekers draw up with the help of their advisors, who are responsible for assisting them until they return 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 Social and Solidarity Economy

The other notion that takes account of the evolution of the youth labour market in France is that of the Social and Solidarity 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).