Sunday, November 16, 2008

The retirement age

Air France is on strike as some pilots oppose the new law amendment which allow Air France pilots to retire at 65 instead of 60. It seems that the law is not forcing everyone to retire at 65, it simply gives the possibility to people who want to work longer. I wonder why people were on strike then if they can choose when they want to retire? The answer: they want the senior citizen to get out of the workforce to make way for the young.

The legal age of retirement in France vary depending on the sector you are working on. Usually the civil servants retire earlier than those working in the private sector. That's why some times you have SNCF on strike as they don't want to lose their privilege to retire at the age of 50 or 55 compared to those at 60-65. Below is a table which tells you the average retirement age by different sectors:

I was quite shock when I learnt that in France people can't work when they reach certain age. That means if you are still healthy and you are passionate about your job, you can't stay on when you hit the retirement age. Someone told me that this is how France lost their researchers, as scientists would like to continue their research but are restricted by their age, so to continue they have to move elsewhere. In Malaysia the legal retirement age is set at 55, but I have seen some people stay on their job until 65 or 70 depending on their sector and their employers.

I work in private sector. To enjoy a full retirement, I need to allow certain amount of money disappear from my bank account for 41 years. Since both me and hubby were working overseas for several years before returning to France and since the retirement platform is set at 65, we will be forced to retire before fulfilling the 41 years retirement fund contribution. That means both of us won't enjoy full retirement. Worst, the pension you get is not proportional to how many years you have paid. For example, if you have paid for 20,5 years and you decide to retire, you will not get 50% of the pension fund, but someone who works for 35 years might get higher than 85% for the retirement fund.

One day on TV I heard an old couple complaint that they couldn't make ends meet with their 1200 euros month pension. They need to pay 500 for their apartment rental the remaining is not enough to pay for all expenses. They both look healthy but they can't work as they are over 65 years old. Now, how can these people increase their income if they are not allow to work? Isn't it just drive more people into demanding help from the government?

I also heard that in some companies, you won't see people above 57, as even though they have not contributed for 41 years, the company would propose them an early retirement package. They will get paid in the form of benefits so that the companies do not have to pay all the social taxes for them which could result in 50% of saving for each employee. At the end, the employees are happy as they got to retire earlier than expected, and the employee can reduce their operating cost. The only "people" lost out in the game is the government, but who cares?

I'm so support the laws to push the retirement age to 70. But, it is kind of sad to have to work at 70 also. Man, we so screwed up.


  1. I think you touched on a very sensitive subject but one that is so right!

    I too think it's ludicrous how the unions here control the masses. You should have been here last year when the managed to turn the entire nation into one striking country (I blogged about it here: and here

    The thing is that when you try to speak to French people about this they really don't want to hear our "capitalistic" ideas. They stick to the fact that this is the country of human rights and that it's wrong to raise the retirement age and instead the government should raise salaries (or minimum wage) so that retirees CAN enjoy their retirement early on.

    Either way you see it I agree with you... what's wrong with having the choice? If you want to work more than why should you be limited? In what way does that harm those that DON'T want to work more?


  2. I suppose that it would be necessary, as a foreigner, to look at the historical foundation of the current laws concerning retirement, pensions, and the SECU.

    When my husband, French-born, Paris 14th arr, was 51, he was on the verge of being forced out of his job in stone industry sales and fabrication troubleshooting. He came to the USA and worked as a stonecarver for 20 years. However, and it's a big however, he was NEVER covered by HEALTH INSURANCE as a self-employed, 51-72 year old. He only survived a heart attack and prostate cancer due to having had the heart attack in France during a trip and the follow up in the USA, as well as prostate cancer, based upon my job's medical benefits. That goes for his eyes and teeth, too.

    In France, you may have to live frugally but you will not lose your home due to a catastrophic illness. You will be taken care of. 50% of personal bankruptcies in the USA are due to medical expenses in a non-universal-health care environment. And it's getting worse, not better.

    And, if you are young and in your prime, you might think that nothing can happen to your health--until you have a car wreck, a baby with leukemia, breast cancer, or a husband with severe depression, to name a few surprises that life can throw at you.

    The French might not be totally correct, but it's certain that they are not totally wrong in their efforts to consider vacation, retirement and universal health care as basic human rights for which people, such as my husband's father, fought bloody battles in the streets of Paris to secure.

    It will be interesting to see if France continues to be humane or if it throws its citizens to the wolves like the US does in the name of the capitalist economy...

  3. fned,

    "it's wrong to raise the retirement age and instead the government should raise salaries (or minimum wage) so that retirees CAN enjoy their retirement early on."

    I don't know why people think the government has enough money to finance this.

    La Framéricaine,

    I too consider vacation, retirement and universal health care as basic human rights. I have to debate with my friends in the USA about these and they keep telling me that they don't want to pay for people who are lazy to work.

    I just think that it would be nice to let people who want to work to continue as they please for whatever reasons: to continue their job that they are passionate, to make sure they have enough retirement fund...

  4. I mostly agree with you (rule #1, agree with your wife).
    There is one point though, especially in flying planes: as you grow older, your vision might weaken, your reflexes as well so setting an age limit for security reasons is relevant.

    That said, I will always have a hard time understanding why someone who has spent his all life controlling tickets in a train or raised his flags a couple times an hour to send trains away from his station, enjoy 26 years of retirement while we, the private sector people, would only have 18 years ... complete mystery here.