Retirement at 60 + Amazing Healthcare = Bankrupt State

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has recently stirred emotions by discussing delaying the minimum retirement age in France, and/or extending retirement contributions. Here’s a demand by one of France’s many workers unions:

La retraite à 60 ans et à taux plein, sans augmentation, ni allongement de la durée des cotisations.

Translation: Complete retirement at 60 years old, without raising contributions or extending the contribution period.

Seriously, people?

Let’s take the example of Japan, a country with one of the longest life expectancies on the planet, and a good social medicine program. You might think that these are good things, and indeed they are, but combined they produce disastrous results for Japan’s economy: with more and more people living longer lives in retirement, the state bears a bigger and bigger financial burden to care for them.

With French unions short-sightedly demanding a freeze on the retirement age, they are conscripting themselves to the same fate as Japan’s system – radical overhaul or complete bankruptcy. It would be much easier now to adopt sensible changes to France’s retirement system than wait for disaster.

Bastille Day

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Flag of Vannes in Bastille Day Parade

It’s Bastille Day (14 July) here in France, and the town is abuzz with national spirit.

This morning, I was awakened by the sound of a band playing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.  And yesterday, a parade went by on the street outside my window, featuring costumes traditional of French royalty and Breton customs; there was even a bagpipe band.

Summer in Bretagne

Summer has finally made its way to Vannes, and life is better.  Yesterday I laid out in the sun, and though I earned a few itchy mosquito bites (many of you know that if there’s a mosquito within 20 miles, it will somehow find only me!), my new coat of summertime tan is a welcome change from what was a coldish spring.

Which brings me to ponder just why we have school during the summer here in France – is this the only country where that happens?  I know my friends in the States are enjoying a little time away from the hectic pace of classes to enjoy summertime get-togethers and inter-session workshops.  I’m jealous.

But at least I have the sun and France!