Is age an issue for employment in France

I've been talking to an agent in France about a 20 day contract and she repeatedly asked my age. I declined to answer and asked why she wanted to know. Is ageism a significant problem in France, as well as them not liking to employ foreigners?

@ Finn, I do agree with you and I do know that the way you describe the system, is the way it really is. I am afraid choosing to live in foreign countries opens our eyes on all sorts of injustices whether they are in our country of origin or our host country. It is all the same, I have experienced it in both countries, by fighting to get what you want I did not imply cheating, I did imply keep your head high and stay focused on what it is that you try to achieve. Of course one should defend him or herself if treated wrongly and against the law, that is not the point. France is not Anglo-Saxon or Germanic, France is and has always been Mediterranean, it operates on a different cultural background and therefore it is not very "this way or that way" but instead it is "sometimes this way and other times that way!". Digging into a country's system can be so nerve racking (believe me I am in the States!). I think it is important not to forget the attraction to the new country in the first place and keep seeing the beauty we were attracted to. And then hey if it doesn't work, somewhere else might!

Agree with Marie-Pierre on this one, are you looking for a job or a fight, to integrate in France or make enemies...!

If something is illegal it is illegal and whether you are a "foreigner" or not is not the question. This attitude will have to change, even if it is driv en economically, trather than by a wish to change its culture. The days of hiding are over!!!

Oh so excuse me but was your goal to challenge the system but not to get the job? I thought you were looking for the best way to get the job! It feels to me that it would be more satisfactory to end up with the position than wasting so much energy on a system that won't bend especially with foreigners. I am not saying I agree with it (I don't live in France) and having been a foreigner myself for 20 years, I will say you challenge the system to get what you want but really to change the system itself? Also I do believe now that if it doesn't work for you try something else!!

Thanks Finn,

I've done a lot of reading since your post. For the benefit of everyone else, I will give a brief summary below.

It is illegal in France to discriminate on grounds of age, nationality, sex. What's more the onus is on the person or company to prove that they have not discriminated against you. This is both a criminal and civil offence. Civil suit can be mounted to claim damages and criminal puts indivduals in prison for up to 3 years with fines of 45,000 Euros for physical persons and 225,000 Euros for artificial persons (personnes morales). You can lodge complaints in a variety of ways. There are exceptions, but they need to be justified, if there is a doubt for example.

1. It would be reasonable to exclude men if the job was in an establishment for women only

2. It is reasonable to exclude you if you are likely to retire within a period, when employer would not get the benefit of you being in the job long enough. BTW: is there a compulsory retirement age in France?

3. Your not being French is not an excuse UNLESS you applied for a job in the "fonction publique" and even here there are some jobs, where non-French EU citizens are eligible.

All the stories I have read here are blatant discrimination and you should fight. I am certainly going to send the agent some information and hint at lodging a complaint. Since I am not in France it might be difficult to lodge a complaint, so any suggestions would be appreciated.

I have a practical guide to discrimination issued by the pole d'emploi. Can I upload it somewhere or can anyone find the link?

@ Howard Perry. It is hard to know old you are on the picture, (I am 49 myself and I just can't tell how people are anymore). I would say mid-late forties but this is what my first impression is: You need a more formal picture (not one cropped from a family picture, this is very important in France and also you need a picture where you sit straight (very important in France especially if they have to get a sense of you from just a picture). Sorry I hope you don't mind me saying this but (...I am French) so I know these rules and what people look for at first glance.

Here's a photo, so how old do I look or can get away with in France?

It's nice to know that asking for age is illegal, so I just need written evidence to send to Défenseur des Droits. Is it possible to sue in Civil court and get damages - I know, probably costly? I like the argument for lying about age but CV needs to be consistent with it.

Age is an issue for just about everything in France! So do not worry, just get use to it and become very comfortable announcing it! It is very common to ask your age and your marital status, number of children, etc. and that is just the way it is. Because of all the work regulations in France and the different categories of positions, the companies need to know your age to know in which category you will fall (also meaning what kind of category of benefit they will get from the government!). Unfortunately that is why it is important for them. It might be illegal like Finn Skovgaard (and I was never aware of that) but in my opinion it is better to get used to it than fighting it because when you will go to your next appointment it will be the same so you can't fight all of them! Good luck!!

By the way Howard, put your photograph up like the rest of us and we can have a guess what age you can get away with. I think I look pretty good for 46 - and having the kids hasn't kept me young - its aged me no end.

Take heart, when I was interviewed for my current job, I was 42, foreign and married with a 3 and a half year old and an 15 mth old. They did ask my age, (I had left it off my CV on purpose but had included a photo as requested) what my set up was for childcare and did I intend to have any more children? Totally illegal, however refusing to answer wouldn't have got me the job either. I answered all their questions and they offered me the job later that day.

If you're interested, my reply to any more kids was 'do you think I'm totally mad at my age!' Maybe that was what swung it.

I was made redundant for the first time at 44 i was told by the dole in the uk to settle my mind as that i would never work again due to my age, that was in the early 90s two weeks later i was working, my branch of engineering is well sort after due to the policy of no apprenticships, jump forward 20 years again redundancy this time it was impossible to get a job due to my age plenty of offers until asked my age so here i am in France with no regrets, do i want a job , they would have to pay me bloody well to get me back this time

They want a skype interview, so they can guess then. In any case, the end customer has a broken system, which he's been unable to fix over several months, so I'm may be the only one who can fix it. FWIW, my skillset is extremely rare in France. There have been plenty of jobs in the last 6 months but I've been stymied so far by being aforeigner and a long way away, or else the customer didn't have a genuine problem. If 45 is the key age, perhaps I have to be 43 forever :-). I have to doctor my CV accordingly.

So, there is no legal requirement to give your age in France? In Switzerland there is no legal requirement as such but as employers pay social security contributions according to employee age, there is a convention to give it and it usually makes no difference. If you are over 65, the employer pays no social security.

Officially, for an interview, you should not be asked your age, marital status, whether you have children etc - in practice ....

This is France after all - don't you just love it ;)

When I last signed on at the 'Pôle Emploi' a couple of years ago they very nearly refused to let me. As I was over 60 they insisted that I take my retirement! I fought this and they reluctantly let me sign on. But each meeting with my 'advisor' ended with him laughing out loud when I insisted on him offering me a suitable job. Even when I told him I was going to set up my own business he drew me aside and said in a confidential tone "Don't be stupid: I can make sure you get the dole until you're 65 and you won't even have to sign on every month".

After 6 months of this charade I set up my own company, an estate agents, and have sworn to never go back to that useless organisation. Incidentally, I tried out my 'date-free' CV on Pôle Emploi and they were not amused. Ageism is ingrained in France but we must all continue to fight it.

Yes! I have been told that once I am over 45 (am currently 43) that I will be considered a senior. I am asked for my age all the time and am obliged to put in on my CV - I stopped putting my date of birth on my UK CV a long long time ago. I have already been turned down for jobs because of my age - and the potential employers openly say so. Sigh......

Not just jobs, they want to know your age for everything!

Indeed it is, when I was 'only' 45, I had a CV returned to me with my age circled. No letter to say thanks, but no thanks, just that. It was for a job in a car rental company.

Yes and yes - bonne chance ! And it works both ways - unemployment is over 25% amongst young people too!

Try and apply for a job and take 10 years off and see if your offered the job … What do you have to lose !