Expats moving to France can have a difficult time anticipating what day-to-day life in French society is like. Read on to learn about diversity and inclusion in France.
Accessibility in France
Although some of the country’s most picturesque aspects, such as its historical architecture and cobblestone streets, can be difficult to traverse for those with mobility and sight impairments, major efforts have been made to make France more accessible, especially Paris. Most of the attractions in Paris have been made wheelchair accessible, and Paris-Charles de Gaulle is considered one of Europe’s most disability-friendly airports.
Throughout France, buses and trams are the most accessible forms of transport. Most buses have electronic ramps and lowered floors for ease of access, while trams are designed to be level with station platforms, allowing passengers a smooth entry and exit.
LGBTQ+ in France
France has been praised for its progressive stance towards LGBTQ+ rights. Homosexuality has been legal since the late 18th century, while in 2013, France became the 13th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, including provisions for same-sex couples to adopt. In 2017, laws were passed to allow transgender individuals to change their legal gender without the requirement of surgery or medical diagnosis. As of early 2022, France is one of just a few countries worldwide to ban conversion therapy.
Paris is considered one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the world. Le Marais in particular is the centre point of the city’s thriving LGBTQ+ community. Paris Pride, held annually in June, is the country’s biggest LGBTQ+ celebration, drawing half a million attendees each year. Smaller pride parades are held around the country as well, such as in Lille, Nice, Lyon and Marseille.
Gender equality in France
The French constitution ensures that all citizens enjoy equal rights, and French women's equality of access to the freedoms of their society is among the highest in the world. France even advocates for women across the globe with its 3rd International Strategy for Gender Equality. That said, there are some holdovers of traditional gender roles in France. These include the idea that women should dress and act in a feminine way and the assumption that women stay home and men work. These traditional roles can still be seen in the gender pay gap and an uneven distribution of household chores and childcare, though most families nowadays are dual-income and these gender roles have become much less pronounced.
The EU's European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) scores France at 75.1 out of an ideal 100, similar to Finland and Spain. This places France in the top five in the EU as an exemplary country for gender equality.
The gender pay gap in France is contracting and France currently places 15th in the World Economic Forum's 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, with the gender wage gap being 12 percent. This disparity comes largely from a difference in specialisations, with women accounting for most of the workforce in the lower-paid healthcare and social work industries.
In France, expectant mothers are usually afforded 16 to 26 weeks of maternity leave, well above the UN's International Labour Organization's recommended 14 weeks. Fathers have 25 days of leave, usually directly after their children's birth, or 32 days in the case of a multiple birth.
Women in leadership in France
As a highly developed democracy, France's representation of women in leadership is generally excellent. Since the implementation of the landmark Copé Zimmerman law in 2011, France has made significant strides in boosting the number of women in corporate leadership roles and it now boasts an impressive 44 percent representation of women on boards. This is the highest in the world, followed by Italy and the UK (40 percent), while countries such as Sweden (36 percent) and Germany (31 percent) lag behind.
While women enjoy many freedoms in France, the general representation of their voices in work and politics is an area for improvement for the country. Though women’s representation in parliament has fallen, France has continued to lead Europe in the fight for gender equity, with only 35 percent of Germany and the UK’s parliamentary seats occupied by women in comparison to 37 percent in France.
The French government is further making inroads towards reducing gender disparities and making women's voices heard. France introduced an Act in 2022 setting gender quotas for large corporations to achieve by 2026 to increase the representation of women in executive roles. This legislation aims to ascertain that the number of women in meaningful leadership positions rises by mandating that companies increase diversity in key decision-making roles.
Mental health awareness in France
Expats can be at greater risk of mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, exacerbated by stress and loneliness.
Companies are becoming more aware of the impact of mental health issues, and many have adjusted their policies to provide better support. This includes ensuring that mental illness is well covered by the company’s chosen employee healthcare schemes, as well as promoting knowledge and decreasing stigma by holding in-house workshops.
Although France has excellent provisions for physical healthcare, mental healthcare isn’t prioritised and resources are limited. In practice most expats use private healthcare services, though, enabling them to bypass these difficulties. For this reason, we advise that expats ensure that their international health insurance covers access to psychological and psychiatric care.
Unconscious bias training in France
The concept of unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, they're often inaccurate and based on assumptions.
Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also a number of online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.
Diversification of workforce in France
France is a diverse country, home to over 7 million foreigners who make up close to 12 percent of the population. People moving to France are often drawn by its attractive work-life balance and sturdy economy.
Expats can expect to encounter a fairly diverse work environment, and the offices of international firms, particularly in large cities, buzz with a blend of different nationalities and languages. Expats of all ethnicities are generally welcomed, although there is occasionally some prejudice against immigrants from Africa. The French attitude to some foreign customs can vary, for example wearing a veil in public that covers the entire head and face is punishable by law, and there can be discrimination against women who wear hijabs in the workplace.
Studies show that diversification of the workplace is hugely beneficial to companies and employees alike. In recognition of this, many of France’s largest companies are setting up diversity and inclusion programmes, ensuring that a wide variety of people is represented among employees.
Safety in France
France is one of the safest countries in Europe, so expats have little to worry about when it comes to crime here. Petty crimes like theft, mugging and scams do occur occasionally, more often in France’s larger cities, so it’s important to still be vigilant, keep doors locked and not carry too many valuables around. Pickpocketing can occur, especially in areas popular with tourists, and on crowded public transport.
Calendar initiatives in France
4 February – World Cancer Day
28 February – Rare Disease Day
March – TB Awareness Month
17 May – International Day Against Homophobia
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
November – Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day