Well, retirement is a sensitive topic in France, so my friend is not going to ask this person how does she manage to get off so early, but instead we analyse the situation and come out with three facts that would entitle her to early retirement:
1. Working in one of the x-government control companies (eg SNCF, France Telecom, EDF, La Poste...). These companies used to own by the government and since then have been privatized, but the government still own important shares and controls in them. They have one common point : good benefits for their employees such as earlier retirement than other public and private companies.
2. She has three kids. During my MIL's time, each kid entitles the women to get off 2 years earlier for retirement. So having three kids entitles her to get off 6 years earlier, and the fact that she works with x-government own company may amplifier this entitlement.
3. She used to work in the nuclear industry. Since it is considered as high risk industry, each trimester she worked may account for more, for example 1 trimester = 1 year.
We don't know if our analysis are close to the reality, but just to point out that retirement is not always a fair game in France. It really depends on which company, which industry and which benefit package you are enjoying. I once read a Brit's blog, he started working in France in his 40s, so he said by the time he retires, he would be working for 20++ years in France, and the fact that he needs to work 40++ years to get full retirement, he will eventually get nothing. Yes, the more working trimesters you owe, the more percentage your pension gets deducted.
The national motto of France is Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood. Sometimes I wonder which equality are we talking about. Equality for the poor? The rich? Or just for certain group of people?