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WORKING IN FRANCE

France plans special residency permits for workers in under-staffed sectors

The French government's new Immigration bill proposes, among other things, a special residency permit for people working in sectors where there is a labour shortage.

France plans special residency permits for workers in under-staffed sectors
(Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU / AFP)

Under proposals put forward by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Employment Minister Olivier Dussopt, the special residence permit is intended to ease the worker shortage in a number of under-pressure areas of the economy, including construction, hospitality, and healthcare.

It is part of a wide-ranging immigration bill that also includes compulsory language exams for certain groups and a tougher regime for people served with a notice to quit France.

READ ALSO French language tests for residency: What we know so far about proposal

The bill is at this stage only a proposal and still needs to be formally drafted and then debated on both houses of parliament. The Ministers say the bill will come before parliament in early 2023.

Who does it affect?

The proposal is to allow undocumented immigrants already living and working in in France sans papiers (illegally) to gain a residency permit and become legal workers – if they work in certain sectors that are experiencing a labour shortage.

It also includes ending, in certain cases and in particular industries, the six-month period during which asylum seekers cannot work.

So this really only affects people who are already in France – either working illegally or having applied for asylum. There is no suggestion at present of providing an easier visa route for foreigners entering the country to work in specific sectors.

“A majority of foreigners [in France] live from the fruits of their labour and try to integrate,” Darmanin said, while Dussopt pointed out the proposal would reduce the abuse of undocumented immigrants by some employers.

READ ALSO Talent passport: The little-known French visa that could make moving to France a lot easier

“The future Asylum and Immigration bill, which is to be presented in early January, will include a major section on work, as a way of responding, at the very least, to the labour shortage, which can be counted in the tens of thousands in certain sectors. It is a form of absurdity of the system,” Dussopt told Le Monde. “We lock some foreigners into inactivity and others into illegality.”

The working population of France is around 30 million and of those 3 million – roughly 10 percent – are foreign workers, according to Ministry of Interior figures. These include people who have come to live and work in France from other EU Member States.

READ ALSO How non-EU citizens can move to France (and stay here)

The true figure is probably higher, because there are also undocumented foreign workers. Neither the Interior Ministry or Employment Ministry has been able to provide estimates of the number of illegal foreign workers in France.

The government spokesman rejected suggestions that the scheme represents an ‘amnesty’ for undocumented workers, but that’s really what it is, albeit only in certain sectors. 

What does it mean for businesses?

The measures only affect sectors that are officially designated as “under stress” by the government – that means those that are having serious and ongoing difficulty in recruiting enough people.

As well as giving workers a residency card, meaning that businesses no longer have to run the risk of hiring illegal workers, there is also a suggestion that businesses in certain sectors would no longer need to provide work permits for non-EU workers.

The work permit system puts non-EU workers at a disadvantage compared to EU staff, since it involves more complicated paperwork for the employers to complete, making non-EU staff less attractive to hire.

In tandem with these methods, sanctions will apparently be stepped up on businesses that are found to be using illegal workers.

Which sectors are ‘under stress’

That’s the big question, but there is no detail yet on which sectors will be involved.

The list of sectors under pressure varies from region to region and will be defined “after consultation with the regions and social partners” say the ministers.

The construction and hospitality sectors have loon been struggling to recruit, and are notorious for employing undocumented workers. France is also struggling to find healthcare workers. 

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PENSION

What to know about your French pension if you worked in another EU country

If you have worked and paid pension contributions in both France and another EU country - including pre-Brexit Britain - then here is what you can expect for how your combined pension will be calculated.

What to know about your French pension if you worked in another EU country

It is common for people to work in more than one country during the course of their career, and they usually end up paying pension contributions in each country. However it is not always clear how these are combined once you reach retirement age. 

This is the situation for people who have worked in France and another EU/EEA country or Switzerland. For those who have worked in a non-EU country, click HERE. For Brits, go to the bottom of the article. 

French pension

If you are an employee in France you will already be paying into your pension, since this is compulsory. If you take a look at your French payslip, among the deductions for social charges is the ‘retraits‘ section and this shows your pension contributions. These can be quite high – OECD data shows that the average French worker pays 11 percent of their monthly (gross) salary into their pension. 

READ MORE: Ask the experts: What foreigners living in France need to know about French pensions

In France, because the pension system is “pay-as-you-go”, you are technically eligible for a French pension after just one quarter (trimestre) of working in France under a French contract, though the value of the pension after just one quarter would be quite low.

You can use the French government pension simulator to check the level of your French pension – full details HERE on how that works.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: The website to help you calculate your French pension

Non-French pension

In general, periods of employment outside France may be combined with years worked in France to boost or qualify for the French state pension. However, it depends on which country you have worked in, and whether that country has a social security agreement with France.

All EU, EEA countries, and Switzerland have social security coordination, so will have their pension contributions made in France calculated in the same way as for EU/EEA countries.

Retirement age

The first step is to look at how many EU/EEA countries you have worked in, and to check your retirement eligibility under each of those regimes.

For example, if you worked in both Denmark and in France, then you must consider the minimum age of retirement in both countries. If a person retired at the French legal age of 62, they would receive only the French portion of their pension until they reached Denmark’s legal retirement age (66 to 68), when they would start getting the Danish portion as well. 

Pension rates

Then, a calculation is done to determine the pension rate. This will look at the person’s would-be pension under the French scheme (also known as the national pension, or independent benefit). Another calculation will also be done to determine the pension rate under the European community formula (also known as the pro-rata benefit). In most cases the higher value will be the pension applied.

On the European Commission’s website dedicated to explaining old-age pensions across the EU, the European authorities explain how this double calculation is done. Taking the example of the hypothetical person “Rosa” who has worked 20 years in France and 10 years in Spain, the EU site explained how the two European countries would determine who pays what portion of Rosa’s pension.

Starting with France, the first calculation made determines Rosa’s current pension under the French scheme – which is based on Rosa’s 20 years contributing to the French pension system. It is determined that she is entitled to €800 per month.

READ MORE: Reader Question: How long do I have to work to qualify for a French pension?

The next calculation uses the European calculation that offers a theoretical amount – the pension Rosa would receive had she worked the entirety of her career in France.

This theoretical calculation determines that for 30 years working in France, and it determines Rosa would earn a €1,500 pension. To figure out the portion of Rosa’s total pension that France will pay, French authorities multiply Rosa’s would-be total pension (€1,500) by the 20 years worked in France. Then, they divide that by the total years worked in both countries (30 years).

This finds that ultimately France will pay Rosa €1,000 per month as her French pension.

As for the Spanish side, pension authorities will also look at Rosa’s “pro-rata” (or theoretical pension) if she had worked the entirety of her career in Spain. They determine that she would have received a Spanish pension of €1,200 for a full career. Then, Spanish authorities do the same European calculation where they multiply Rosa’s would be total pension (€1,200) by the number of years worked in Spain (10). They divide this number by the total number of years worked (30) to get the portion of Rosa’s total pension that should be paid by Spain.

This determines that Rosa ought to receive €400 of her pension from Spain.

In total, she will receive a pension of €1,400, but €1,000 will be paid by France, and €400 will be paid by Spain. 

You can see more examples of these calculations with specific simulations at the Europa.EU website page for State pensions abroad. 

You can also watch this video, made by the European Commission, to understand how the process works for EU nationals.

The case for Brits

Brexit has made pensions more complicated for Brits, and essentially divides British workers into two groups.

Those who arrived in France before December 31st 2020 – and are therefore covered by the Withdrawal Agreement – continue to benefit from EU social security co-ordination. They should therefore have their pensions calculated as described above.

Those who moved to France after December 31st 2020 are treated as non-EU nationals for pension calculations – click HERE for a full explanation of the system for non-EU workers.

This article is a general view of the pension system and does not constitute individual financial advice. If you are are unsure about your pension rights, seek independent financial advice.

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