Thursday, June 13, 2013
Social Explosion Ahead?
Retirement reform has been--if I may use an American metaphor--"the third rail" of French political life since at least 1995. Many people who voted for the Socialist candidate in 2012 were probably under the illusion that he would roll back the legal retirement age to 60, although Hollande--or at any rate his advisors speaking on his behalf--never committed himself to any such thing. Nevertheless, the news that the required period of contributions for a full pension will probably be increased from the present 41.5 years to 43 or 44 and the legal age of retirement from 62 to 63 is already sending ripples through the Socialist Party and may well set off a conflagration when finally announced. Nothing has been done to prepare the restive electorate for this shock--unless of course you count the 20 years of public debate about the sustainability of the pension system. The trouble is that this reform is going to be proposed by the Left. When Sarkozy moved some distance in the same direction, the strikers could always tell themselves that the next time would be different. But now that the next time is turning out to be more of the same, frustration will very likely turn to rage. This could be the summer of France's discontent, and Hollande's recent improvement in approval polls will not likely survive, although he hasn't much room to fall on the downside.