Top French chef wants to legalise clandestine workers to beat staff shortages

© Fred Tanneau / AFP

Michelin-starred French chef Thierry Marx says undeclared foreign employees in the hotel, restaurant and catering sectors should be recognised for their skills and given resident permits to stay in France. This call comes as the government this week unveiled the outline of its new immigration bill, due to be validated by the parliament in early 2023.

Marx, who was named director of the main employers' union in the hotel and catering industry (Umih) in October says although the Covid pandemic exacerbated recruitment difficulties, the problems themselves are not new.

Restaurants, construction work, agriculture – many sectors in France regularly face a labour shortage and turn to foreign workers, many who do not have legal paperwork.

To deal with this issue, the government is proposing to create a residence permit linked to jobs in sectors with labour shortages, a list of which is still to be finalised.

"Our sector, catering, should already be considered to be under recruitment pressure,” Marx told the Journal du Dimanche weekly last Sunday.

“We have 200,000 unfilled positions and surprisingly, they are not on the list allowing the recruitment of foreign staff. Same thing for the hotel industry," he says.

According to the JDD, out of an estimated 600-700,000 people living illegally in France, around 7,350 of them were able to get exceptional work permits in 2020.

Paperwork nightmare

He says this uncertainty only throws small businesses into jeopardy with a very real knock-on effect on the economy.

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