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 this will continue well into 2002, well after the 'euro's' launch this coming New Years.'

The 12-year old heroine of the coming TV-spots is going to tell us that 'It's not difficult.' The whole information effort, for France alone, is supposed to cost 18.4 million euros - without taxes and per year! - which is 121 million francs.

All of this is very laudable. The only element that is missing is the clincher - the euro cash. Without this, it is like playing Monopoly by memory.

Mad Cows - Part 73

The headline says, 'One Frenchman Out of Five Doesn't Eat Beef.' Le Parisien's subhead says 43 percent of the French have reduced or eliminated beef from their diets.

photo: red cola, new yearOne result of this has consumers massively avoiding the pre-cut beef offered in supermarkets, but less so in the case of their neighborhood butcher shops.

In Chinatown - red soft drinks and red banners for the parade.

The global costs of the 'mad cow' scare are also driving up the price of beef in France. In Britain, in order to save what there was of the market, there has been a general reduction of 20 to 30 percent.

But in the whole report, there is no mention of the French who could not afford beef in any case, so it is entirely possible that one in five were not eating beef before the crises.

Winter Sports News

The 'Vendée Globe

This single-handed non-stop round-the-world sailboat race may remain unreported for a day or two, but it is still on the high seas and is on its homerun.

The amazing 24 year-old Helen MacArthur has just overtaken veteran sailor Michel Desjoyeaux in the mid- Atlantic and now leads the race.

This is far from over, as the two leaders are nearly becalmed in the area of the Equator - but there are no other competitors within 500 sea miles.

Other Winter Sports News

As of today, 'winter' is 39 days old. It may be a bit tired and slushy, but if you are interested in the state of snow at French winter sports stations, try hitting the Hiver,SkiFrance and Net4Ski Web sites.

The ex-ski champion Edgar Grospiron has an exceptional site, called Ridearth. Especially conceived for actual fans or practitioners of speedy downhills, it features all sorts of current white snow activities, including morsels of techno-ski music.

Web Life:

Two-Thirds UnWired

A recent study conducted by the GFK institute claimed that two out of three households in France are not - will never be? - connected to the Internet. At the end of last year the number of wired households was estimated at 17 percent.

This puts France as a whole 10 points behind the average for Europe and far behind countries like Germany, Britain, and Holland where the connection rate is 48 percent. The number of French surfersphoto: reflections samaritaine is estimated to be 13 percent of the population.

The most connected region in France is the Ile-de-France, which is close to the European average. While there is talk about the need to close the gap between the 'haves' and 'have-nots,' there is little discussion about the fact that the price of the necessary equipment may be prohibitive for many families.

This means that the huge publicity campaigns that spring up like mushrooms in Paris, mainly benefit the ad agencies that produce them - leaving little left over for producing the content that should be the reason for the Web.

Your Paris Web URLs

If you have any favorite Paris Web sites you think other readers should know about, please send them in. If they haven't been featured before and they don't crash my browser, you'll get a modest 'thankyou' here.

The 'Official' Weather: 100% 'Winter'

Météo France is the official source for France's TV-weather people - if you don't get French TV where you are, you can get the weather from where they get it. Because it is 'official' - meaning: as true as possible - don't expect forecasts to exceed 24 hours even though TV sometimes goes out on a limb with unreliable seven-day forecasts.

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