More Than Free Healthcare: A Look at French Social Security

To some Americans, socialism simply means that they do not have to worry about their healthcare costs…etc. In reality the actual workings of socialist societies, such as that of France, are extremely complex and detailed.

For example, the French Social Security System consists of a very complex network of schemes, covering virtually the entire population of France, and provides a wide variety of benefits.

The French Social Security system is divided into four categories called Regimes. The Regime General covers 80% of the French Citizens and covers private sector employees, public servants (benefits-in-kind), as well as different categories of people who were not originally covered by a scheme (for example, students, war veterans, persons benefiting from certain guaranteed minimum incomes such as certain family allowances).

The Regime General (Régime général) has thus been used over the years as a “catch-all” scheme, to provide access to medical coverage for the entire population. It divides up into 4 sectors: health insurance and accidents at work; retirement; family income support; and the collection of contributions. Its family support programs are accessible to all eligible claimants, without requiring employment or personal contributions. Contributions are collected by URSSAF (Union de recouvrement des cotisations de securite sociale et d’allocations familales) which has 105 offices around the country. The URSSAF then passes the money on to ACOSS (Agence centrale des organismes de securite sociale) for distribution to the various funds, called caisses, which are responsible for paying out the benefits and making reimbursements.

This system includes social security basic coverage shared between the Employer and Employee; on average the employer’s share of contributions represents 45% of the gross salary; the individuals share 15%. Contributions are assessed using various ceilings. The above figures give you an idea of how costly it is to employ persons in France. Social Security is considered the first social protection pillar. Institutions offering voluntary supplementary coverage comprise the second pillar. Unemployment Insurance is separate from Social Security for historical reasons. All these components are part of what in France is called the “Social Protection System”.

*For more information visit French Social Protection System.


Expatica’s 2012 Expat Survival Guide
“The French Social Protection System” by ADECRI (PDF)
“New Business Hiring Employees” on

TOPIC: Cultural Differences
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