Over the past few days, France has been experiencing paralysing protests against a decision to raise retirement age and reduce benefits for the old-aged. The French Parliament has approved a bill that would raise the minimum age for reduced French retirement benefits to 62 from 60, and raise the age to collect full benefits to 67 from 65. Though all the major European economies have initiated similar measures over the past year or so, nowhere has it generated this intensity of opposition.
An explanation for the strong French reaction can be obtained from a comparison of the labor force participation rate, or the percentage of people in each age category who are working or seeking employment, of France with that of the other major economies.
As can be seen, in the 60-64 age-group, the French have the lowest labor force participation rate. In 2009, only one Frenchman in five of this age-group was in the work force, to 61% of Americans, three-quarters of Japanese, and over half of Germans. The same pattern follows for all higher age-groups. To be French and to be old is very heaven!