First, some insights from French papers:
LES ECHOS (business daily)
The French social system, which dates back to 1945, is falling apart. When you move one limb, the whole decrepit body suffers and gets inflamed. The gravity of the crisis is not only about an archaic defense of advantages acquired over time and corporatism. It’s about that but also much more.
LE FIGARO (conservative)
Where are the new ideas? They certainly don’t come from the radicalization of the left, the unions or the university and secondary school students that have been hitting the streets in protest to preserve a retirement system that is giving up the ghost after having been created by the Vichy government in 1941. This opposition, devoid of leaders and plans, is the very image of anti-Sarkozy reflex which is reaching its climax.
What is not so different is that French students, like their parents and teachers, still subscribe to economic concepts that no longer make sense to people in most other Western countries. From President François Mitterrand, who lowered the retirement age in 1982, to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who introduced the 35-hour week in 2000, Socialist leaders have done much to ingrain the idea that the pool of labor is fixed and needs to be shared.
It is an argument that was repeatedly made among the marchers on Thursday.
“If older people work two years longer, we will be unemployed for two years longer,” said Maximilien Berne, an 18-year-old high school student who traveled an hour to make the march in Paris on Thursday.
As most demonstrators will tell you sooner or later, the average age for a first job in France is 27. Before then most are forced to make do with a series of badly paid internships.
“Our future is unemployment,” said Cécile Heintzmann, 16. “They should create jobs for young people instead of raising the retirement age.”
Earlier this week, I found this summary of the protests at Yahoo:
Many workers feel the change would be a first step in eroding France’s social benefits — which include long vacations, contracts that make it hard for employers to lay off workers and a state-subsidized health care system — in favor of “American-style capitalism.”
Was The Wealth of Nations not translated into French? The French government perpetrating the notion the labor pool is fixed is downright fraudulent in my opinion. The French labor experiments haven’t worked, but instead of accepting the results and adjusting accordingly, the French seem determined to continue with these flawed, failed, fraudulent policies – with youth rioting to keep the status quo! I’m surprised people would protest to keep such a terrible economic system instead of demanding something better. And this flawed economic view also sheds some light on why the French feel such hostility towards their immigrant populations, at least for me. Perhaps instead of looking down their collective nose at “American-styled capitalism” they should consider that government over-regulation of an economy gives them their first job at 27. God help the French should their youth ever learn they are actually the victims of economic child abuse.