The Striking French

Driving to the first of two yoga teaching gigs yesterday, I listened to a report on NPR that Paris was all but shut down by unions striking against the proposed rise of retirement age from — get this — 60 to 62.   Flights were disrupted and even the Eiffel Tower was closed to tourists.  A few weeks ago, when the movement (if one can call it that) for status quo was just heating up, I heard a couple who had just turned 60, offer an argument you won’t hear on this side of the Atlantic so much these days, that they some how deserve to retire.  They felt they had paid into the pension funds and were fortunate that their pensions would not be threatened by the new law, if indeed it is passed.  In the background, one could hear the voices of their grandchildren for whom they offer care one afternoon a week because they enjoy it.

Contrast this to the desire of most Americans — I’m one of them –to continue to work and not only out of financial necessity, although that is certainly a factor given the sorry rate of saving and investments of many older adults.  The new MetLife Mature Market Institute Study finds “startling” the news that many Early Boomers plan to remain in the labor market.  But if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that we believe that money is not the only driver for the choice to continue to work.  We happen to think we will remain healthier for it — that alone is a good way to give back.  And unlike our French cohorts, we take a certain pride in continuing to contribute actively to society and to the well-being of future generations, including our own grandchildren, if we have them.   I admire many things about French culture — the food, the art, the joie de vivre, and the fact that the welfare of children is a national priority.  How they will reconcile childcare costs with an aging population that wants to be supported for 25 or more years is the question.  Send in the grownups.

Generational Warfare

2 thoughts on “The Striking French

  1. smontg01

    I beg to differ that working longer keeps Americans healthier. Healthier than who? The French actually have a longer overall life expectancy than Americans. According to the UN, lifespan for the French is 80.7 years, compared to 78.2 years for Americans.

    We Americans are a workaholic nation whose social and family structures are not as cohesive as the French. We define ourselves by what we do. Almost the first question we ask someone new is “What do you do?” Not to work means to be seen (and see oneself) in some ways a non-entity, a non-contributor to society. No wonder Americans keep working past retirement age.

    In France, no one asks you on first acquaintance “What do you do?” and if you go to a party, people do not discuss work. There is more to life than work! In my opinion, it’s we Americans who have got it wrong.

    The French government may need to raise the retirement age for economic reasons, but that is a different matter.

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