................fighting the bad fight since 135 BC................

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Facing new realities in France

In case you didn't know, strikes have been raging in France against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. In this AP article, a striker invokes history as a reason to fight for this cause:
The protest against a government plan to raise the retirement age to 62 has special meaning for five members of the Eric Gilly clan who are demonstrating in the streets of Marseille.

"We want to stop working at 60 because it's something our parents, our grandparents and even our great-grandparents fought for," says Gilly, 50, a union representative at Saint-Pierre Cemetery, the largest in this bustling Mediterranean port city.

"And over the years ... you can see that we're losing everything they fought for. And that's unacceptable."
Invoking history may be a bad idea, however. First off, as the article indicates later, the pension age was last lowered by Francois Mitterrand from 65 to 60 in 1982. The Mitterand era was one of profound hope and change for the socialists of the era, yet it is becoming apparent that the reforms they enacted may have been a touch unrealistic.

Above all else, the fact remains that state benefits to retirees have to go on for a lot longer than they used to. I found this interesting chart that plots the rise in average life expectancy in France from 1967 until 2008:

In this short period of time, life expectancy has gone up a decade. Population growth has declined since the postwar years. So something has to give.

But does that something have to be pension benefits? The article states the following:
Retirement benefits are coveted, by some, perhaps even more than a higher salary, making the issue particularly sensitive. Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age hits a nerve deep in the French psyche.
It's easy to make false judgments as an outsider. Perhaps the retirement issue was not handled by Sarkozy with the proper sensitivity. Yet I find this line of argument hard to take seriously. Really, we're talking about two years here for benefits that will last much longer than that. It does not seem to be a battle worth fighting. France is still in wobbly shape economically. There are bound to be larger issues on the horizon.

1 comment:

  1. There would be a simple and just solution to the pension problem. First, calculate the life expectancy for each and every job or profession. Then decide to give fifteen years retirement to each. So if your job's life expectancy is 82 years, your retirement age is 67.
    A simple formula would make the calculation for people who had multiple careers.