There was a piece on TF1 news the other night that suggested a disproportional amount of foreign news coverage of French strike action abroad. In many cases this coverage paints the average French worker as stubborn, economically unrealistic if not downright lazy.
I think the fact that most foreigners don’t understand what the strikes are about is the problem. So let me spell it out:
The issue is the minimum age for early retirement which currently stands at somewhere between 57 and 60 for most of Europe, except for Germany where it is 65. In the UK it is also 65, but if you have a private pension you can retire whenever you like. To get a full pension the French have to work for 41.5 years which is 11.5 years longer than the requirement for the British state pension.
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.
On balance, the French get as rough a deal as anyone else – so why all the fuss when they stand up and say ‘enough!’ ?
Will the British be marching in the streets against yesterday’s Austerity cuts? They certainly should be.