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What are the French Complaining About Now?

As surely as the seasons change, the French find a reason to take to the streets in protest.  This time they are up in arms over the proposed increase in the retirement age for full pension benefits from 60 to 62.  In the United States, the retirement age is now between 65 and 66, depending on your date of birth; it increases to age 67 if you were born in 1960 or thereafter.


A bit of historical perspective is in order.  As The Economist notes: "When Otto von Bismarck introduced the first pension for workers over 70 in 1889, the life expectancy of a Prussian was 45... By 1935, when America set up its Social Security System, the official pension age was 65 – three years beyond the lifespan of the typical American."

The original state-sponsored plans were clearly for those few who lived beyond their normal life expectancy. Today, pensions are more generous and cover the average person for a much longer period of time.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average age for a pension in 30 of the most developed countries is 63 for men and 62 for women. But the average life expectancy in OECD countries has risen rapidly to around 82 years. And it continues to grow.

The result is that governments are facing ever growing pension liabilities as its citizens have the "audacity" to live longer. Generous benefits appear unsustainable for countries already facing severe budget problems.

The workers in France may have to postpone retirement for a couple of years comforted only by a 35 hour work week and over a month of paid vacation.  C'est la vie.

Words of Wisdom

Boy, those French. They have a different word for everything.
-- Steve Martin