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Old 06-12-2012, 03:31 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by ziggy29
It may be complex, but *if* a certain "protected class" gets to retire younger than all the other French taxpayers, it's discriminatory. Especially if it's based on gender (or race or religion or family status, et cetera). I don't need to know more than that to judge that particular aspect of it as sexist, discriminatory and wrong.

There are ways to consider individual circumstances and other criteria without a dividing line based on gender.
One can retire at age 60 if one has at least 40 years in the workforce, that is, started work before the age of 20. The retirement pay is discounted compared to retiring at the full retirement age (67), by what looks like a straightforward actuarial calculation, something like the US Social Security system. Note that Social Security only requires 40 quarters of creditable earnings, something vaguely like 10 years of significant work.
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Old 06-12-2012, 03:32 PM   #22
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In South America they also would require a recent photo along with the CV. My YW gets offers on the 11 out of six positions she applies for!
It's funny, because most employers in Latin America do ask for a current photo, yet hiring is often more diverse with regard to age and gender that in the US, especially professional positions.
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Old 06-12-2012, 04:24 PM   #23
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Lived in France for several years.

Not only an age 60 retirement, but between the 35 hour work week, a "saint's day" every other week, some civil holiday every alternate week and a rail/taxi/muni/police/carman's strike every third week, plus six weeks of vacation, you end up working a 3 day week year 'round!

Oh yeah, and that 2 hour lunch (paid by law by your company).
You must have lived in a different place called France from the one I live in.

Retirement at 60 is only possible if you've worked for 42 years straight. The "new" reduction to 60 from 62 does not reverse most of the changes made by the previous government; to qualify, you have to have had almost no breaks of any kind. And in any case, this is not the full rate; you have to wait until 65 for that (a bit like US Social Security). To go at 60, you have to have saved quite a bit, FIRE-style, and until very recently there was no 401(k)-style tax deduction for that; your personal retirement contributions were paid out of taxed income, and even getting the returns tax-free (Roth-style) means accepting some conditions.

It's a Saint's days almost every day of the year, courtesy of the Catholic calendar. However, a total of 0 (zero) Saint's days are recognised as public holidays in France. (Several French holidays are indeed Christian religious festivals; these were abolished after the 1789 revolution and quietly snuck back in during the period from 1815 through 1871 when the French brought the monarchy back. They don't like to talk about this period very much; for example, it is skated over very quickly in school history lessons. Anyway, when 1871 came around, they were apparently so tired from losing a war to the Prussians that they never re-secularized the holiday calendar.)

France actually has no more holidays than the US, once you take into account that Whit Monday is not really a holiday (it's a very long and complicated story, involving politicians).

And there is no employer-paid lunch break. If you work a 35-hour week, you typically work from 9:00-12:00 or 12:30 and then 2pm to 5:30pm or 6pm. Lunchtime is your own. Many workers go home, but others sit at their desk like people all over the world. (The most common consequence of the 35-hour week was for people to work 8-hour days or even slightly more, then either go home on Friday afternoon, or take an occasional extra day off. Mothers will often typically go home on a Wednesday afternoon, since most kids have no school then - elementary schools are typically shut all day Wednesday. (This *is* a secular thing; in pre-revolutionary France, schools used to be closed on Thursday for catechism practice, so the revolutionaries kept that idea, but moved that to another day and made it about recreation. French kids need this break; they work their butts off in school.)

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Gender discrimination and discrimination based on reproductive status. Lovely.
As far as I know, this applies to men and women equally. Certainly, the 5-year retirement age bonus which has applied to government employees for some time is not based on gender. I know a man who went to work for the then-nationalised phone company at age 18 and retired 30 years later, with 5 years bonus for 3 kids.

As for the other part, it's simply designed to compensate for time spent not working due to bringing up children. This would not be regarded as discriminatory anywhere in Europe.

Don't forget, most Europeans have been brought up - since Bismarck - to expect that the state will be fairly substantially involved in their retirement income. In France and many other countries, the state administers or guarantees a number of pension schemes which have a substantial degree of proportionality to your income. (Notable exceptions are the UK and the Netherlands, where the state retirement pension is a fixed, and unspectacular, amount; however, both of those countries have fairly sophisticated private pension provision, including generous tax deductibility, which is handy due to their - by US standards - eye-watering marginal income tax rates.)
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:05 PM   #24
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To add to what BigNick said, if a holiday (for instance Christmas/New Year's) fall on a weekend, the French do not get an "extra day" - Monday or Friday, as we in the U.S. would get.

If they want time off, they have to use a vacation (leave) day.

In addition, most are required to take their vacation (usually 20 days - a full month) during the month of August (varies by company). Sweden does the same thing for the month of July. At least that was the schedule for the companies I worked for at the time. Of course, being based in a U.S. subsidiary, I did not have to adhere to any such schedule.

Most of vacation in Europe is centered around the school schedule.

To take a week here and there is not common, as it is in the U.S.
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:23 PM   #25
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As far as I know, this applies to men and women equally. Certainly, the 5-year retirement age bonus which has applied to government employees for some time is not based on gender. I know a man who went to work for the then-nationalised phone company at age 18 and retired 30 years later, with 5 years bonus for 3 kids.

As for the other part, it's simply designed to compensate for time spent not working due to bringing up children. This would not be regarded as discriminatory anywhere in Europe.
If the details aren't gender-specific, that's better. And to go back to an earlier point I made, there's a difference between giving extra "service credits" for stay-at-home parents and letting them retire earlier than everyone else. If this was just sensational journalism designed to cause controversy (that never happens) and the law is gender-neutral, I withdraw my objection to it. But the article made it sound like women get it over the men. (As someone with no kids I'm not thrilled about the "3 kids gets you a break" aspect but I can more easily live with that than with gender discrimination. At least having kids is something you can choose as opposed to being unable to qualify due to circumstances out of your control.)
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:50 PM   #26
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Parental leave - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Of course, I would not want to pay the taxes my manager (who lived in Sweden) did either, but that's another story.
A Frenchman once told me about the 'social contract' the French have with their country/government. They willingly pay high taxes in exchange for many benefits that are 'extra-cost' for we Americans. It's far to complex of a cultural issue to be understood in a news article written at the 6th grade level.
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Old 06-13-2012, 07:13 AM   #27
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No. French people recognize that women are still the ones bearing kids and most likely raising them as well. What it means is that a woman tends to be penalized by the French retirement system compared to their male counterparts because she may have to time time off work. Therefore, women who have had children get compensated with retirement credits.
But women also live longer than men. So why should they be allowed "out" earlier than men? Doesn't that mean they'll systematically collect more lifetime benefits than their male counterparts?
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Old 06-13-2012, 07:51 AM   #28
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But women also live longer than men. So why should they be allowed "out" earlier than men? Doesn't that mean they'll systematically collect more lifetime benefits than their male counterparts?
Everyone - whatever their views on feminism etc etc - should read this book, which covers a number of issues very similar to the one you raise.

Actually, until recently, in most European retirement systems, women used to retire(*) 5 years or so before men, regardless of their contribution status - whether they'd worked from age 16 and never had kids, or stayed at home and brought up 15 children. This was declared unlawful by the European Court of Justice a few years ago and the various systems scrambled to equalise the ages. Some split the difference (eg, men 65/women 60 became 62); others took advantage of the change to nudge the overall average age up, as our pension systems are looking at the same time bomb that Americans face with SS as the age pyramid evolves.



(*) Whatever that means; in this context, it typically means "take the same benefits, assuming X years of contributions". I'm currently in some tricky negotiations with a French government agency over some benefit which I'm entitled to because I'm "retired"; they're arguing that I don't meet their definition of "retired" because I'm not old enough for a French pension, I'm arguing that that's irrelevant because I'm not entitled to that pension.
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Old 06-13-2012, 07:59 AM   #29
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In addition, most are required to take their vacation (usually 20 days - a full month) during the month of August (varies by company). Sweden does the same thing for the month of July. At least that was the schedule for the companies I worked for at the time. Of course, being based in a U.S. subsidiary, I did not have to adhere to any such schedule.

Most of vacation in Europe is centered around the school schedule.

To take a week here and there is not common, as it is in the U.S.
French employers have considerable say in when their staff can take vacation time. If the factory closes all through August, that's 20 of your 30 vacation days you have to take right there. No kids and don't want to pay premium high-season prices for vacation accommodations? Tough.

Alternatively, if your company doesn't shut, and insists that 2 out of 3 people doing job X must be around at all times, and the two more senior people want to take four weeks each in July and August, then as the junior you're going to be scrambling to find ways to take your family away. Something similar to this has happened to DW for the last 3 years. Her boss has asked the two more senior people to "try and be more flexible", but they have little incentive to comply. Fortunately, with DS/DD out of the house, we don't need to take too much time away in the summer.

The Swedish situation is, I believe, slightly different. I recall reading that it's a legal requirement there for people to take a 3-week break from work once a year, presumably for some kind of psychological/de-stressing reasons (although since the arrival of e-mail and BlackBerry, maybe that doesn't work as well for all types of employment). This was mentioned in the French media a couple of years ago when a trader lost his bank 5 billion Euros (he basically shorted the entire German stock market; 5 billion was what it cost the bank to unwind his 50 billion Euro position over a weekend, while keeping things *very* quiet). It turned out that he had been covering up a series of increasingly dangerous trades over the previous 3 years, during which time he had taken *zero* vacation days, partly because he was becoming obsessed, partly out of fear that someone would look at his accounts while he was away.

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A Frenchman once told me about the 'social contract' the French have with their country/government. They willingly pay high taxes in exchange for many benefits that are 'extra-cost' for we Americans. It's far to complex of a cultural issue to be understood in a news article written at the 6th grade level.
This is true, although the specific term "social contract" doesn't come up much in conversation (perhaps because it's such a part of the wallpaper). It's also true, to a greater or lesser extent, of most European countries. We never had the frontier, but we had a couple of big wars right here on our territory (my 77-year-old neighbour was telling me just yesterday how he used to run errands for the German anti-aircraft crews stationed 500 feet from where we were standing: his Mom did their laundry in return for some of their rations). I guess that we kind of took a collective decision that a bit of peace was worth paying some taxes and being a little less competitive.
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Old 06-13-2012, 08:14 AM   #30
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The Swedish situation is, I believe, slightly different. I recall reading that it's a legal requirement there for people to take a 3-week break from work once a year, presumably for some kind of psychological/de-stressing reasons...
Also, the Swede's have another reason to take off in "mid-summer" since late-June to late-July is the best time for most to get sunlight which is at a preimum during the winter months. I hated to be there in the winter due to lack of sunlight; you went to w*rk in the dark and left in the dark.

Of course, in the spring/summer, it's full sun at 3-4 a.m. so you better have your "sleep shutters" down (although it was sometimes tough to ignore the noise from the seagulls at that time of morning )...
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Old 06-13-2012, 08:16 AM   #31
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Bignick, having worked my entire adult life under non-US labor laws and also dealing frequently with "selective highlighting" by US HQ folks, I think you're doing an excellent job of putting perspective on something that is otherwise very difficult to comprehend and compare.
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Old 06-13-2012, 10:40 AM   #32
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I guess that we kind of took a collective decision that a bit of peace was worth paying some taxes and being a little less competitive.
Makes sense. Also, it is well established that more homogeneous societies are more open to social welfare schemes. Voters see their taxes coming back in services for them, their parents, their children. Coming out of WW2 western european countries grew and improved their social welfare schemes under considerable demographic homogeneity. As this is changing and perhaps will continue to change, there may be some rocky road ahead for european social welfare planning.

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Old 06-14-2012, 04:27 AM   #33
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Bignick, having worked my entire adult life under non-US labor laws and also dealing frequently with "selective highlighting" by US HQ folks, I think you're doing an excellent job of putting perspective on something that is otherwise very difficult to comprehend and compare.
Why, thank you. I can but try.
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Old 06-14-2012, 10:03 AM   #34
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I think the Scandinavians pay amongst the highest tax rates in the world, yet they are all happy to do so because of what they get from their government in return. Weren't the Danish recently found to be the happiest people in the world and it was related to the fact that everyone was looked after.
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Old 06-14-2012, 01:11 PM   #35
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I think the Scandinavians pay amongst the highest tax rates in the world, yet they are all happy to do so because of what they get from their government in return. Weren't the Danish recently found to be the happiest people in the world and it was related to the fact that everyone was looked after.
Meanwhile the USAians seem to be getting more and more unhappy. Seeing all those old people living large on their fat $1065/month Social Security checks is apparently the problem, if I can believe what our Fearless Leaders say.. (Based on Q1 2012 average $1200 check less average Medicare plan $135 deduction.)
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Old 06-14-2012, 10:43 PM   #36
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Does anybody else apprecaite the irony of a bunch of people who post on a forum dedicated to early retirement, wondering how the French can lower the retirement age to 60 ?
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Old 06-14-2012, 11:05 PM   #37
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Does anybody else apprecaite the irony of a bunch of people who post on a forum dedicated to early retirement, wondering how the French can lower the retirement age to 60 ?
That isn't the only irony found on this board.

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Old 06-14-2012, 11:24 PM   #38
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That isn't the only irony found on this board.

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Old 06-14-2012, 11:31 PM   #39
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Let's reserve judgement and see how the increased social spending works out for them. They are free to make their decisions (as they did with their recent election) and enjoy the consequences.

But, I hope those in the US will resist the urge to bail France out "for our own good." Those US workers toiling extra weeks every year and being more productive (on average) each hour they spend on the job might not take it well.

I am pretty sure that US tax payers won't be bailing out the French. The scary thing to me is what happens, when the Chinese worker who put in 50-60 hour weeks, with very little in the way of benefits. (Now days even high school education has to be paid by Chinese workers) suddenly start screaming at their government to stop loaning money to 1st world countries at very low rates.
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Old 06-15-2012, 03:03 AM   #40
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The scary thing to me is what happens, when the Chinese worker who put in 50-60 hour weeks, with very little in the way of benefits. (Now days even high school education has to be paid by Chinese workers) suddenly start screaming at their government to stop loaning money to 1st world countries at very low rates.
That's scary to me mostly because it will result in them getting imprisoned, tortured, or shot. It will take a while yet before China's middle class is able to tap the Communists on the shoulder and ask them to move over.
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