French pension reform

The invaluable Andrew Samwick points to this story on another attempt to reform French pensions:


Nicolas Sarkozy is eyeing off the pensions of public servants.

In 1995, moves to reform France's pension system led to weeks of protests.

Now, the new French President has announced a package aimed at cutting benefits to workers like train drivers and electricity workers, who until now could retire early.

Mr Sarkozy says the system is financially unsustainable and he has pledged to negotiate with unions and companies, but he insists the new system will be implemented without delay.

He'll need more than a bit of luck. In 2003, roughly the same reform touched off a series of crippling strikes (which is still better than 1995, when an attempt to reform pensions ultimately brought down Alain Juppe, the prime minister.) That's why the train and utility workers were exempted from the last deal: for some reason, railroad unions tend to be especially militant, and both groups have the ability to bring the country to a screeching standstill. It's annoying if you can't get your driver's license renewed, but really a tad worrisome if the power to work your ventilator goes offline.

Nonetheless, he has to do something; lavish public sector pensions pose a potentially crippling burden on a government that already has quite a lot to do figuring out how to fund all that health care for the elderly. And having forced the reform down everyone else's throats, the government may be in a better public position, since now other civil servants will resent the special privilege.

Presented by

Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Business

Just In