The aviation sector in France

14/09/2017 Career Advice

The French labour market often brings to mind images of the often-mentioned 35-hour working week, minimum wage struggles and powerful trade unions. Indeed, the French social safety net is very extensive and this is primarily reflected in high non-salary payroll costs, a highly rigid labour market, and frequent strikes.

Nevertheless, the French labour market offers superb career chances and opportunities for professional development, particularly for technicians and engineers. Around 700,000 non-French EU citizens work in the country, as well as 800,000 third-country immigrants. Over the last few years, the unemployment rate has constantly hovered between 9 and 11 per cent; however, the trend in 2017 is highly promising and gives hope for a long-term relaxation in the labour market.

Opportunities for workers to find a job in France are generally good. Especially university qualifications are in demand, and French businesses value a good education particularly in technical fields. Alongside the actual search for a job, there are bureaucratic and linguistic hurdles to overcome, which may deter potential emigrants. Good French language skills are undoubtedly helpful and will make your everyday working experience significantly easier; however, they are not a rigid requirement. In the internationally oriented aviation sector, daily communication takes place almost exclusively in English, which facilitates the entry of foreign workers into the market.

The aviation sector occupies a special position in terms of integrating and providing opportunities for German workers. Due to the close interdependence between German and French plants belonging to the Airbus group, working abroad becomes significantly easier in this sector in particular. Europe’s largest aircraft manufacturer actively seeks out workers from other EU countries and has set itself the target of employing 40% non-French workers.

Attractive career opportunity in France

The French aircraft manufacturer’s most important French plant is in Toulouse, where it employs almost 21,000 people. Other important factories are based in Saint-Nazaire and Nantes. Whereas a wide variety of components for multiple Airbus product ranges are produced in Nantes, the focus in Saint-Nazaire is on assembling and testing aeroplanes. All three factories have a close working relationship with German Airbus subsidiaries. For example, over 12,000 people are employed in Hamburg, working on developing, building, and final assembly for the A380 large airliner.

Due to the close interdependence between German and French businesses and locations, workers from Germany have particularly good chances of securing attractive jobs with strong prospects for professional development. Airbus’s major presence at its locations in Toulouse, Nantes, and Saint-Nazaire has led to a large number of other aircraft technology businesses being established in the surrounding areas. ARTS supports Airbus at its Toulouse location, for example in the area of final assembly and is currently looking for qualified employees to fill both technical and administrative roles.

Opportunities for non-French citizens in the French aviation industry

If you would like to work abroad and manage to find a position in a French business, you should generally expect to receive the same public services and legal benefits as a French employee. As in e.g. in Germany, the French social security system is financed by contributions from workers and employers, although the contribution of the employer is significantly higher than that of the employee (unlike in Germany), with employers contributing around 43 per cent and employees contributing 23 per cent of gross remuneration. However, only the employee is liable for income tax., which is payable annually after submission of a tax return. As a rule of thumb, employees can expect to pay two to three months’ salary in income tax.

The social security system of France can be broken down, broadly speaking, into five distinct areas:

  • Old age pensions
  • Family services
  • Compensation for accidents at work and occupational illnesses
  • Sickness, maternity and paternity, disability and death
  • Premiums and collections

After completing six months of work that is subject to compulsory social security payments, employees gain the right to unemployment insurance. Public healthcare pays around 70% of treatment or medication costs. Most French people take out additional, private insurance for the remaining 30% of costs. In 2016, mandatory employer’s health insurance was introduced. Employers are obliged to offer health insurance to their workers, with the employer meeting at least half the costs.

Airbus in France
Airbus A320 from Air France - © pixabay
Airbus A320 from Air France - © pixabay
Saint Pierre Bridge at Toulouse
© Anibal Trejo/Shutterstock.com
© Anibal Trejo/Shutterstock.com

In terms of public services, foreign workers in France are subject to French employment law, which provides for a 35-hour working week. Businesses can deviate from the 35-hour week in exceptional cases in order to overcome practical problems and to avoid weakening the business’s productivity. As such, annual quotas can be implemented for working hours and overtime rewarded with a 25 or 50 per cent premium. Employees in leadership roles are mostly exempt from the 35-hour week and can work for longer.

In 2016, the minimum wage in France was €9.67 gross per hour. As salaries in the aviation sector are mostly significantly higher than this, the rule has barely any effect on the sector. Moreover, employees in France can claim five weeks’ annual leave. Many French people take the majority of their holiday during the summer months of July and August and at Easter or the end of the year. Depending on collective bargaining agreements, employees may also be entitled to further vacation days.

Opportunities and challenges for EU citiziens in France

Anyone who would like to work abroad and has identified the French aviation sector as a potential employer will initially be confronted with a number of bureaucratic hurdles. Under closer examination, it is not particularly difficult whatsoever to obtain a position in a French company and to fulfil the provisions of French employment law. EU citizens have an unrestricted right to live in France and do not require any special work permits.

If, however, you wish to live and work in France permanently, you need a social security number (a “numéro de sécurité social” which is also used as a tax number and by the “Assurance Maladie” for healthcare. Employees who wish to obtain a French social security number must provide the following documents to the “Assurance Maladie”:

  • Employment contract
  • ID card or passport
  • Bank account details
  • Birth certificate (certified copy)
  • Proof of prior health insurance
  • Proof of residence

Supplying the documents referred to above does not generally pose any problems for EU workers. It is worth noting that opening a bank account in France requires proof of residence. Finding accommodation in France is highly dependent upon the region. Whereas rental prices in Paris are significantly higher than in other European cities due to a lack of housing stock, the search for accommodation in Toulouse or Saint-Nazaire is significantly easier. If you can demonstrate proof of employment, you generally have better chances of finding accommodation that meets your expectations.

Our finger on the pulse of French aviation – working at ARTS 

ARTS also has a presence at the sharp end of French aviation and employs around 7% of its staff at its Toulouse location and at its office in Saint-Nazaire. ARTS aero SARL was established in 2016 as the French equivalent to ARTS Solutions GmbH. The subsidiary is responsible for production related processes for customers from the French aviation industry as well as other industrial sectors.

As such, ARTS project teams support their colleagues at Airbus in Toulouse, for example on the final assembly line for the A320, A330/A340, A380 and the A350 XWB aircraft ranges.

Moreover, ARTS supports Airbus in its centre of excellence for “Aerostructure and Industrial Processes” in Saint-Nazaire. Core activities here include assembly, fitting, and quality assurance of the front and middle sections of a variety of aircraft programmes.

ARTS aero SARL is currently seeking qualified employees in both technical and commercial fields. Globetrotters with an international perspective, who are seeking international experience with attractive career development opportunities are invited to apply.

Sources: Airbus S.A.S. | auslandjob.de | avocat.de | connexion-emploi.com | ESS-Europe.de | Just Landed | Statista | Wikipedia

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