Paul Krugman observed recently that if you look exclusively at prime-age workers — people between the ages of 25 and 54, in other words — the employment rate in France in actually higher than in the United States. If you delve a bit deeper into the data, this turns out to be a highly gendered phenomenon:
If you look at men, the gap seems to have come and gone with the Great Recession and I would speculate it has to do with the fact that French labor law makes it harder to lay fire workers with seniority. But among women the gap is larger and more durable. This presumably has something to do with the fact that France has a much more robust system of publicly provided child care, so it is considerably easier for prime age women to work while raising children.