What Age for Retirement?
Workers around France went on strike June 24th to protest President Sarkozy's plans to raise the retirement age to 62.
France does have one of Europe's lowest retirement ages, allowing workers to retire at 60 in most sectors. The government says the reform to the money-losing pension system is essential given France's burgeoning deficit and aging population.
Union officials, however, say the French government's main concern should be boosting employment in a country where large numbers of young people and seniors can't get jobs. This would raise revenue. Furthermore, money for the pension system could come from higher taxes or charges on those who are still working, while cost-cutting in the pension system is an attack on a hard-fought way of life.
From the government's point of view, the reform is calculated to save nearly euro19 billion ($29.3 billion) in 2018 and should bring the pension system back into the black that year.
In the mean time, neighboring countries suffered along with Paris commuters, as walkouts by drivers delayed or canceled trains from Italy and Switzerland. Some flights were dropped or delayed.
About 20 percent of French teachers were on strike, along with postal workers, dock workers, some hospital workers, and a workers at a few other large companies.
The Cabinet will discuss the proposals in July, and they will likely be presented to parliament next autumn. The reforms would be instituted progressively.
(Side note: While I may not feel entitled to an opinion on France's pension plans, as an American and a parent, I say "wow, their kids are still in school!" Wish ours spent more days in school. )