Queen's University

Pension protests in France

2010-11-08

Queen’s University history professor and undergraduate chair Timothy Smith is available to discuss proposed pension reforms in France, and the radical turn protests against the hike took on Tuesday.

“French youth are opposed to a modest reform to pensions which will, in the long run, ensure the economic viability of the nation, which can only be a good thing for them,” says Professor Smith. “But French youth have grown up in a low-trust society in which any 'reform' of social welfare is seen as a threat against French 'civilization' (as the opponents of reform have said). French youth are also among the most pessimistic in the rich world – they have known nothing but high unemployment and underemployment. Social benefits are like an anchor in an unsettling world – even if this means benefits which are devoted to retirees. The market is not trusted because it does not work for French youth. Pension reform is being undertaken in a nation which subscribes to the 'lump of labor fallacy', which is the idea that there is a fixed amount of work, so the prolongation of retirement from 60 to 62 means, to French youth, more people working – and fewer job openings for them.

Professor Smith is an expert on modern Europe, social history and comparative public policy. He has written extensively on the history of French social policy, from the 1810s to the early 2000s, and is the author of the book France in Crisis: Welfare, Inequality, and Globalization Since 1980 (Cambridge University Press).

To arrange an interview, please contact Michael Onesi at 613.533.6000 ext. 77513 or michael.onesi@queensu.ca, or Kristyn Wallace at 613.533.6000 ext. 79173 or kristyn.wallace@queensu.ca at News and Media Services, Queen’s University.

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