The French government has been quite impressive in the way it has handled the media around the retirement reforms. All the media discussion that I have seen in the Anglophone media has been around the change in age in which you can take early retirement from 60 to 62. Huh bolshie French think they don’t have to work and the rest of Europe should support them.
Last week I received a letter from Revenue and Customs in the UK. It stated that in the 2008-09 tax year I earned almost enough to count as a qualifying year for my pension. I am surprised at that because I believe I only worked for less than three weeks in the UK in that tax year. If I make an additional contribution of less than £400 I will have another qualifying year to my pension. I currently have 27 qualifying years to my pension and if I make 30 I will qualify for the full state pension. I don’t know anyone who says the UK state pension is generous but it would obviously be better to have a full UK state pension when I retire than to not have it. So I will pay on the assumption that I will get out after my retirement more than the almost £400 I have to pay to get closer to a full pension.
How long do you think someone in France has to work to qualify for a full state pension? 30 years?
If this were ‘The Price is Right’ there would have to be shouts from the audience, higher, 32? Higher, 34? Higher, 36? Higher, 38? Higher, 40? Higher. The answer is 40.5 years.
One part of the reform not much is heard about is the part of the plan to increase the number of years it is necessary to work before qualifying for a full state pension in France to 41.5 years. A full 11.5 years more than in the UK. When for most jobs it is necessary to train, perhaps go to university and then train afterwards, it could be the late 20’s before someone enters the workforce and starts qualifying towards their pension. What then?
Englishman in Strasbourg has another aspect of this. He says:
“In France, retirement is about one of the few ways you can let go of your employees legitimately without going to tribunal. This explains why only 12% of those capable of work in the 60-64 age bracket remain employed in France, compared with 40% in the UK and 23% in Germany.”
So, the French, who are the most productive European workforce, do not get a much better deal of things and respect to them for standing up when the government tries to make their conditions of employment worse. When I was a union steward the line was that pension was payment deferred to retirement so any attack on your pension is an attack on your terma and condition of employment. Would people expect the French workers to take a pay cut? No, I thought not. (Here’s a very interesting Spiegel piece on what’s happening in France.)