Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day of Protest

Today is the long-awaited day of strikes and protests against retirement reform. So how's it going? Let's have some eyewitness reports, so we can add to the "police estimates" and "organizers' estimates" of participation our own French Politics estimates. I've often wondered whether the police derive their estimates by taking the organizers' estimates and dividing by five, or vice versa. So, given the invariably disappointing and easily inflatable/deflatable elasticity of the quantitative, let's aim for some qualitative evaluations. Do the people you talk to believe that the government has fixed its policy once and for all, or is there some flexibility? What do they think ought to be done? Do they believe reform is necessary? How do they define pénibilité, and how should it be taken into account? Would they favor increased contributions (for all? for some?) over an increase in the retirement age? Etc. etc. The floor is open.


Anonymous said...

Interestingly, these estimates used to be much closer: generally, the union estimate was only twice that of the police. But in recent years, the unions have inflated their estimates even more, providing figures that can be a multiple of five.

I've often wondered about this, and wondered why no journalist has ever looked into this. I think the answer is simple: most journalists are union members, and they know what answer they'll find, so they don't want to delve into something that would discredit their unions.

bernard said...

The debate on numbers is not so interesting. It is generally the case that by just being there and watching, one can get a feel of whether it is small, medium, big or really big. And I am not there.

But from a very long experience of watching policy reform, I am absolutely certain that any policy reform is set in stone, whatever happens in the street, until the exact day it becomes the sword on which a government impales itself or, if you prefer, a marshmallow of a policy for a Minister otherwise impaired to fall upon.

Kirk said...

I noticed on the news yesterday (I don't recall which channel), they said that the unions had accepted the idea of a later retirement age in exchange for negotiations on pénibilité. I find that interesting, because most of the people interviewed who were planning to demonstrate were focusing on the retirement age question, which their unions had abandonned, apparently, without telling them.

Anonymous said...

There were LOTS of people in the town where I live. As for the discrepancy between police and unions, the local paper sent someone to make an estimate: twice as many as what the police counted, but a good fifth fewer than what the unions announced.

Around me, there's much talk about Eric Woerth. People say he's lied and lied and lied again, so how can he be trusted with this? They're pretty convinced he'll lie to them about the reform, too. There's also a strong opposition to making the poorest contribute for the "coziest" jobs (since jobs where the norm is an apprenticeship at age 16 would have to contribute for 46 years instead of 42 for others). Some have noticed that all people whose jobs require college degrees will have to work till 67.
The idea that one is healthy enough to work at age 67 is thought of as ludicrous except for "cushy" jobs like economist, journalist, researcher, or CEO. The fact that people's health begins to fail around age 63 on average, and earlier for people with "physical" jobs, has been pointed out to me.
Overall, people feel that the government will favor their friends, like Liliane Bettencourt who was advised on how not to pay taxes, i.e., contribute to the general funds for all, and in effect paid the UMP in order to do this. And the person appointed to steal thus from the general public received a legion d'honneur from Eric Woerth, the same guy who's supposed to be in charge of retirement reform (Whether that's what happened or not is beside the point - although each day seems to uncover a new ethical issue.)
They're both desperate and angry.
At the same time, they agree a reform has to be designed - one that may either raise the full-pension age OR the number of contributing years (but not both), perhaps. One that takes into account mothers and "physical" jobs.
Some want things to be simpler (apparently it's all very very bureaucratic and complicated)
It was strange to hear so many people oppose the government's reform as "unfair" and "unpractical" and at the same time have ideas about what a "fair and practical" reform would be.

Interview with 3 retired women:


Kirk said...

Interesting comment, but wrong:

"There's also a strong opposition to making the poorest contribute for the "coziest" jobs (since jobs where the norm is an apprenticeship at age 16 would have to contribute for 46 years instead of 42 for others)."

First, people in apprenticships are far from being the poorest; quite the contrary. Most jobs for which you join an apprentice program are very well-paid manual jobs. Second, they don't start working at 16, the work part time (not part time every day, but weeks on and weeks off), so they're not working full-time during the apprenticeship. (But they do work hard when they work; I taught for a year in a CFA, an school for apprentices).

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kirk - but Art asked what people around us were saying so that's what I got. Not necessarily what is "exact" but what people think.
I tend to agree with you for most "industrial" apprenticeship regarding those being well-paid jobs, but I'm not sure how much a girl preparing a "service à la personne" CAP will make or a kid enrolled in a dead-end program like soudeur (souderie???) or chaudronnerie. Some jobs on the CAP list sound like BS to me.
However, I'd assume that if they're working, part of their salary goes to the general fund, doesn't it (even if it's less than if they worked full-time). I really don't know.