Download MIPEX III France in French (pdf)



France recently saw less permanent immigration, family reunions and naturalisations, and some more work migration. Scoring halfway on MIPEX, newcomers encounter the least favourable and most contradictory integration policies of all major countries of immigration – more measures focus on unemployed migrants, while keeping millions of jobs closed. Obstacles are removed for work but added for families, unlike in countries attracting labour migration like CA. They are encouraged to become citizens, but not yet to vote as foreigners, despite public support. Government action may undermine the strong existing anti-discrimination law and equality body.

Since MIPEX II, the overall situation has not improved. The 2007 Hortefeux Law is one of many ‘immigration reforms’ (4 in 7 years, with 5th on the way) making minor changes on the same issues. Evaluations have started about the full impact of these policies. Government regularly pilots and evaluates targeted education and employment schemes. Other changes are largely based on media stories and elections. One campaign promise was the new Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-operative Development, whose success is often expressed in expulsion targets.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 May 2007
New Ministry
Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-operative Development
-1 November 2007
Family reunion
Hortefeux Law: pre-departure integration measures introduced
0 November 2007
Labour market mobility
Hortefeux Law: better implemented targeted job measures
-4 May 2008
Anti-discrimination – enforcement
Law 2008-496: victimisation protection is limited
+15 November 2008
Anti-discrimination – definitions
Conseil de Prud’hommes F06/00120: discrimination by association is covered
0 February 2009
Labour market mobility
Lift nationality restrictions on jobs:Senate approves, HALDE recommends, National Assembly rejects
0 November 2009
‘National identity’
Government starts debate about ‘what it means to be French today’
0 March 2010
Political participation
Socialist Bill introducing local voting rights for non-EU residents voted down by Parliament

Key Findings

  • Few countries follow France in imposing job, language and integration requirements for family reunion. 
  • New targeted labour market measures still overlook major problems of access. 
  • 2007 Hortefeux Law: minor changes, including new integration courses for families abroad. 
  • French naturalisation shares basics with other countries of immigration, but excessive discretion. 
  • Pre-departure courses abroad still not as cost effective as the Integration Contract in country, still more favourable than German or Dutch models abroad. 
  • Targeted education measures for migrant children still weak, in pilot phase. 
  • Most countries that facilitate naturalisation grant local voting rights for foreigners – not yet France. 
  • France leads on anti-discrimination, if nationality discrimination and equality body not undermined. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Nationality restrictions

    The Senate unanimously approved lifting some restrictions but a National Assembly majority rejected it, claiming that all countries had these restrictions, that none facilitated naturalisation like France (see access to nationality), that restrictions favourably discouraged “brain drain” among French-trained immigrant elites, and that there was no evidence base on this issue. Earlier, France’s equality body (HALDE), finding no justification for treating non-EU nationals worse than EU nationals, recommended removing the nationality criteria for the private sector, 3 areas of civil service, and public companies and institutions.


    ‘Assessment of Professional Skills’

    The Hortefeux Law generalised these assessments for newcomers, based on evaluations of a previous programme and indicators showing foreigners’ high unemployment rates. It encourages working age newcomers with sufficient French to know their skills when starting the job hunt. The Integration Office focuses on ‘accessible’ jobs, especially sectors with manpower shortages, while government renewed 2 agreements with the National Agency of Personal Services and Federation in Transport and Logistics. The programme plans to offer follow-up on training and assistance in job seeking and qualification recognition.

    Despite governmental promises to promote ‘selective’ work migration, France denies all non-EU residents selected to live there with equal opportunities in more areas of its labour market than most European countries. At 40 points below the EU average, French eligibility provisions are the 2nd least favourable of all countries, after CY and SK. While unemployed non-EU residents can use better implemented targeted measures to find work, they have limited opportunities to enter a career that matches their skills. They are denied legal access to more jobs than in all MIPEX countries. Past estimates of around 7 million excluded jobs (or 30% of all jobs in France) include public sector jobs (e.g. permanent civil servants), 50 professions in the private sector (e.g. veterinarians, pilots, tobacco shop owners) and from starting a business in many regulated professions (e.g. lawyers, doctors, architects and pharmacists). Much of this protectionism dates back to the late 19th century and the 1930s. France is also the only MIPEX country to deny them full trade union rights. In 2004, they lost the right to be elected to ‘Prud’homme’ Councils and Chambers of Commerce and Professions. As such, France has been missing out on migrants’ full economic potential and risking long-term social and economic exclusion.

    Instead, the government has focused on improving targeted measures, which score above the European average (as in 8 countries e.g. DK, DE, NL). That these measures are based on specific goals and some evidence (see box) may make them more effective. However, the fundamental problem of access is not addressed. Immigrants may be oriented towards jobs where manpower is needed, but not where they are qualified. Moreover, the assessment of their skills, although long, costly and even impossible in some sectors, does not amount to an official recognition of their qualifications. Most European countries, especially those trying to attract labour migration, are giving most non-EU residents full access to the private sector and self-employment as well as conditional access to the public sector. Other countries outperform France by granting all residents equal and facilitated recognition of their qualifications (e.g. all CA provinces, PT). 

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    Courses abroad: what effects?

    France’s free and largely accessible courses (71) may slightly facilitate integration and present fewer obstacles than the Dutch (14) or German (57) approach. Still, integration courses in France are more successful (82) because those abroad may not be as cost-effective, professional or relevant. Supporters justified them citing high migrant unemployment rates, options in EU law and the Dutch policy. They presented French language and republican values as ‘pre-requisites.’ Evaluations can check whether courses did improve integration and female empowerment – or just delay or discourage family reunion.

    French family reunion policies are often presented as the most ‘liberal’ in Europe, with the government only following the average conditions. Families actually have better legal opportunities in 21 MIPEX countries to live together as their starting point for integration. France keeps families separated with some of the most restrictive eligibility provisions and conditions (3rd most). This only compares to AT, DK, CH, where policies are highly politicised and regularly changed. Most countries require some conditions such as basic housing or income; France requires all and continues to raise the levels. The Hortefeux Law included employment (only 5 other countries do), integration (6), new pre-departure measures (3, see box), but, ultimately, not DNA tests. 

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    Pilot projects

    So far, the French education system has provided limited induction programmes (CLIN) without standardised methods, tools or evaluation (8 countries score 100 for teaching language of instruction e.g. FI, SE, US). Some pilot schemes have just begun. ‘Ouvrir l’école aux parents’ is being implemented and evaluated across France, helping 4,000 parents in 2010 with courses on French and the school system. In 2009, 200 former newly arrived children on their way to higher education received ‘Parcours de réussite professionnelle’ grants of 2400€. See DE, NL, PT, SE and US.

    As in established immigration countries, all pupils can access schools and what general support exists for disadvantaged students (e.g. ZEPs, plan espoir banlieue). Trained institutions (CASNAVs, see also LU) assess and inform newcomers. If they later have different needs than peers with similar social backgrounds (e.g. newcomers, limited French), few are entitled to targeted support, beyond some pilots (see box). New talk about diversity is not yet part of the curriculum, which largely dropped intercultural education in the 1980s (unlike 27 countries). Some bilateral agreements still support immigrant languages (LCOs). In other school systems, mainstreaming (e.g. BE, PT, SE) helps classroom teachers target specific needs while teaching all pupils to live and learn together in a diverse society. 

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    Voting rights for immigrants, but when?

    In 2008, President Sarkozy stated voting rights, which he called ‘factors of integration’, did not fit in his immigration approach because they would reduce – rather than add – clarity to the issue. The Socialists’ 2010 proposal stated that this democratic and progressive measure would promote political and social recognition and fight discrimination. The majority rejected this in March 2010, referring to the link between voting and nationality espoused in the 1789 revolution, and the relative ease of France’s naturalisation procedure (see access to nationality).

    Immigration countries like France that open access to nationality also tend to open political opportunities. A 2010 bill proposed local voting rights (as in 19 MIPEX countries). The major obstacle is political will, not public support (see box). Political liberties are limited for non- EU nationals because many professions in the media remain closed (see labour market mobility). Still, they can join political parties, as in 21 others. Associations they form receive some support for civic participation. Immigrant consultative bodies (e.g. Paris, Grenoble, Nantes, Strasbourg) are slightly favourable, but could also be immigrant-elected and led (e.g. FI, DE, NO). Only in FR, GR, and IE are immigrants consulted in different cities but not yet at national level. 

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    Fewer categories of immigrants can access long-term residence, which lags behind most European countries, where this is a strength for integration. Twenty years ago, long-term residence was the rule rather than the exception. These residents enjoy a secure and equal status, despite persistent nationality restrictions on jobs and qualifications. In expulsion cases, judges consider their personal circumstances, like age and residence duration. In 2003, then Interior Minister Sarkozy also reformed (but did not completely remove) double punishment. However, the list of who can apply shrunk with 2003 and 2006 reforms. Moreover, applicants cannot leave France for more than short periods, which may undermine co-development goals. Eligibility, at 8 points, is well below the European average (43).

  • Show Access to Nationality

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    Decentralisation of naturalisation

    Local prefects may now decide on naturalisation, without a second opinion from central-level government. Building on a 2009 pilot, the reform will be evaluated to see if it does deliver better services and shortens waiting times for decisions across the country. However the reform may also lead to more unequal waiting times and unequal treatment. 2009’s Ministry’s politicised ‘National Identity’ debates led to new proposals on citizenship and integration contracts.

    The basic path to French citizenship aspires to treat all citizens equally: dual nationality for all (as in 17 other MIPEX countries), jus soli (14) and naturalisation after 5 years (7). However, FR only ranks 9th, with DE. While applicants enjoy judicial oversight and protection against statelessness, French prefects enjoy significant and potentially increasing discretion (see box). First generation immigrants with the same background may be accepted in one prefecture but rejected in another, depending on the way conditions are interpreted. Unlike France, other countries entitle applicants to citizenship if meeting the legal conditions (10). Language professionals (10) can conduct free basic level language assessments (e.g. CA, NO, US) based on freely available courses and questions (7). 

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    Protection against victimisation

    This means that people should not be intimidated or retaliated against when they bring a discrimination complaint or case. When transposing EU law, Law 2008-496 provided this for race, origin and sex discrimination in all matters. It removed nationality as a prohibited ground, which lowers protection for non-French citizens and could create problems in employment law. It is still prohibited in the penal code and, under general principles of public law, cannot be used to refuse access to rights (social security, education, health) to legal foreign residents.

    Conditions for integration improved most in MIPEX countries when government increased commitment to equality. FR leads (with CA, US, UK, BE, SE) by improving legislation. The independent and slightly strong equality body, la HALDE, has been effective in advising government and the increasing numbers of victims. However, FR alone slightly weakened national protections when transposing EU law (see box). This is prohibited in 14 other countries. Following the 2009 Sabeg report, government could focus on its own modest equality policies. The ‘Diversity Labels’ that it gave to 219 private companies since 2008 could be applied to public administration through public duties. Public functions and contracts would then better promote diversity (see CA, US, SE, UK).