On October 22, the upper house of the French parliament passed a controversial bill to change France’s minimum retirement age. The bill is designed to address France’s budget deficit in pension funding by increasing the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60. Despite the fact France has a generous retirement program when compared to other countries within the European Union (EU), the bill is widely unpopular and the country has been gripped by public protests and strikes. The last few days have seen fuel shortages, shipping delays, and sporadic violence due to the demonstrations and labor strikes. The bill passed the French senate by a vote of 177 for and 153 against. A final version of the bill is likely to be signed into law on Wednesday.
DATE: October 22, 2010
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
- Public protests and labor strikes have crippled attempts by previous government administrations in France to change social-welfare programs, but French government officials expect the current round of protests will fade when the final version of the pension bill is approved by Parliament. Analyze the extent to which you think the protests will continue or will be successful in overturning the pension reform.
- The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has said that the French can’t afford to retire earlier than people in other EU countries. Other countries within the EU have cut pension benefits and/or increased minimum retirement ages due to concerns about government spending levels and to acknowledge longer life expectancies. Do you think it would be possible for the 27-member EU to move toward a common retirement program, with consistent age limits for retirement? Why or why not?
- If the public protests and labor strikes continue, do you think this will help or hurt Mr. Sarkozy’s chances for re-election in 2012? Defend your position.
Related Article: French senate approves pension change amid protests. Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303738504575567673535303464.html)