globalEDGE Blog: Protests by the Young for the Old

Protests by the Young for the Old

File under: France,

Recently, France has been experiencing protests of epic proportions that have disrupted public transit systems, educational systems, and shortages in necessary commodities such as petroleum. There must be a good reason for an entire country to deal with strikes that are so disruptive, and there is: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for the government to raise the legal retirement age from 60 to 62. Who wants to work for two more years before their pension kicks in? That question explains the reason for the strikes, but I feel that it is worth exploring the reasons why the minimum retirement age should be raised.

The first statistic that needs to be said in this argument is that the average person is expected to live much longer than in the past. In the United States, the life expectancy has risen nearly 11 years in the past century from about 67 to 78. This is incredibly important when talking about pension plans and retirement funds because the average retirement age really hasn’t changed much recently. With people retiring at the same age, but living longer, that means that more money must be in their retirement vehicles in order for them to have the same standard of living. Just looking at this, it makes sense why (if all else was held equal) that the minimum retirement age should be raised.

However, the argument has been raised that because the world’s population is also increasing, there should hypothetically be more working-age people working who can earn more income which could go into the pension. That plan is fine and dandy, and would actually work. One problem: the world is trending older. To state it more clearly, the percentage of the world that is in their working-ages is becoming proportionately smaller to the percentage of the world that is in their retirement period. The combination of these two factors places a lot of stress on retirement vehicles, and older people, all over the world (as covered by Foreign Policy in this photo essay).

As unfortunate as it sounds, it looks like people all over the world are now going to have to spend a larger percentage of their life working or the current system will collapse under the stress it will receive.
 

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