French Strike, But What For?October 12, 2010 - 9:32 AM | by: Greg Burke
Sometimes I wish I were French. Not very often, I must admit. But every once in a while, when I take a look at some of the social benefits my French friends have, I want a French passport.
Today the French left is striking across the country because of government plans to cut pensions. This is the fourth strike about pensions in just over four weeks. They seem to like striking.
Faced with a massive budget deficit, the French government has to find ways to save money, and one big way is pensions. The tension comes at a particularly difficult time for French President Nicholas Sarkozy, whose popularity is plummeting.
The Senate has already passed legislation that would change the retirement age from 60 to 62. Why should that be a problem? Is it too much to ask someone to work until the age of 62? For the French unions, apparently the answer is yes.
High school kids and labor unions will make a lot of noise on the streets of Paris and other big cities today, but in the end the government will probably win this battle. The unions have had a good deal for a good long time, and someone finally has to foot the bill, or at least a bit of the bill.
France has a number of generous benefits, such as excellent health care and a highly successful program to promote families – making it economically feasible for couples to have more than one child – but others are just off the wall.
In 1998, the Socialists introduced a 35-hour work week. That may sound too good to be true for a worker, and it was. Ten years down the line the government essentially gutted that law, finding it much too expensive for employers.
Sarkozy’s argument against the 35-hour week was, “Work more to earn more.” That may not be the French way, but it looks like the way of the worldwide recession, whatever country you live in.