Retirement - Are You Ready?

photo: resto imperiale choisy

A Chinese restaurant in the 'Triangle de Choisy.'

The Euro - Are You Ready?

Paris:- Sunday, 28. January 2001:- Last week civil servants and private employees massively took to the streets throughout France to protest against the employers' proposal concerning the details of future complementary-retirement pensions.

This is the result of a demographic situation that combines fewer contributors and an increasing number of retirees who are living increasingly longer.

Since the employers cannot increase the sums withheld from salaries, they would like to see workers contribute for a longer period - or take a cut in monthly pensions.

Meanwhile, full pensions are calculated on a work-life of about 39 years of contributionsphoto: steps, grande arche in the private sector and 37 years for civil servants. Workers, meanwhile, would prefer that the age of retirement be fixed at 60 years.

The stairs of the Grande Arche - a lookout at La Défense.

Forty years ago the average length of retirement was only ten years, and this has doubled within the last 20 years. From this fact, the pressure to work longer - beyond the age of 60 - is increasing - to lengthen payments and reduce the time-span of benefits.

For the moment, the proposal put forward by the employers is to reduce the monthly pensions, and this was the reason for the demonstrations last week.

Meanwhile the government isn't doing much except letting the employers' association be the bogeyman. All the other actors see the urgent need for reform - such as equalizing the length of contributions for both the public and private sectors.

The government commissions regular 'reports' on the subject, but hesitates endlessly to make any decisions based on them.

In general, the attraction of working in the public sector is for the better conditions of retirement - accepted in exchange for lower working-life salaries.

But the 'new economy' is turning this on its head, with many more salaries in the private sector being closer to the minimum wage than the higher, but low, salaries in the public sector.

The next step appears to be a call by public sector employees for higher salaries - beginning next week.

Catnapping Near the Moon

A court recently refused a suit brought by a widow against two firemen - for an amount of two million francs - for failing to assist someone in mortal danger.

The affair began in 1996 with a dinner party, where the husband partied somewhat more than dined. A bit over-tired, hephoto: new year parade eagle withdrew to catch a nap. A bit later the wife became aware that her husband was not in bed and set out to search for him.

An eagle on parade in Chinatown yesterday.

She discovered him sleeping on the roof of the family's house. Alarmed, she called the fire department, twice. But the firemen refused to intervene, on the grounds that it was an affair for the police.

When the police arrived and took a look at the situation they called the fire department, and requested that they bring a big ladder.

Before they could arrive, the husband woke up enough to roll off the roof and fall eight metres to the ground, which proved to be fatal.

The two firemen were convicted and received suspended sentences for failing to assist someone in danger. But in the hearing of the suit, the court decided that the victim was responsible for his fate.

The Euro Cranks Up

Since the beginning of the year news columns have gotten longer. Each mention of a monetary value in francs is followed by its equivalent in 'euros.'

In addition, bills for services such as gas and electricity now favor the 'euro' amount, and the consumer has to search diligently to find the amount in francs - which is necessary to put on the cheque if one hasn't already opened an 'euro' account at the bank.

Meanwhile the finance ministry at Bercy is getting ready to launch a campaign of publicity to inform residents about the 'euro,' and his will continue well into 2002, well after the 'euro's' launch this coming New Years.'

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