8 March 2023
There was a lot of coverage here in Britain of the strikes and demonstrations in France this week, when 2.5m took to the streets nationwide, to protest against President Macron’s attempt to increase pension age.
In France, you can currently claim a state pension at the age of 62. However the government wants to increase it to 64. If this happens, many older workers (among the poorest) who are stuck in casual jobs would have to spend two more years in a precarious situation. People are rightly very angry.
While some of the British commentary over the large protests in France has been simply idiotic, along the lines of "well the French just love to strike”, others asked why there have been no similar large protests against the slow but sure increase in pension age in this country?
It's a good question! We can retire at 66 at the moment - already 4 years later than our French counterparts. But by 2028, retirement age is meant to go up to 67 - and to 68 by 2046!
Worse, it has been reported that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt might announce that 2046 is too far away and that the increase to 68 should be imposed sooner, by at least 2037. As far as the government is concerned state pensions cost too much and especially if people live longer these days, as mostly, they do...
This too, is a bad joke. British state pensioners don't just have to wait the longest to retire, but are also the poorest among the rich countries. Our state pensions are a fixed £185/week - half the rate of the Danes and £50 less than the Dutch. In France and in Germany the pension is 50% and 48% respectively, of average earnings, which would mean £300 - £350/week.
So yes, the British population has every reason to demonstrate - and strike - in large numbers, not just over the current iron fist which has been forcing down workers’ real wages, but against the worst state pensions in Europe and the highest pensioner poverty!
In fact along with teachers and civil servants, London Underground workers are striking on Budget Day - and their main demand is for TfL to take its hands off their pensions! They are right to fight for this, tooth and nail. Because, given the pathetic state pension, it's only with a decent, additional workplace pension that
one might be able to survive into ripe old age!