AT observing from the United Kingdom, the massive demonstrations against the pension reform in France, one says to oneself that the distance between the two countries has never been so great. The retirement age for the British (where there is no longer a compulsory age to take it) has gradually exceeded 65 since 2018. It is expected to reach 67 in 2028, and there is talk already an additional postponement to age 68 to preserve public finances. While rumors of further postponements raise fears of protests similar to those taking place in France, the general feeling is that a workforce that lives longer should not prematurely or too long “putting a burden on the state”.
However, in the United Kingdom, which experiences extreme socio-political inequalities, life expectancy in the poorest areas is up to twenty years lower than in the most upscale neighborhoods (“ Health state life expectancies by national deprivation deciles, England: 2018 to 2020 », Office for National Statistics, 25 April 2022). It is as if the British have forgotten that retirement is not measured by an individual’s ability to continue working, but is designed to reap the benefits of social insurance and deferred wages over time. of a period of leisure free from constraints.
Does this mean that there is tacit British support for Macron’s reforms here, in the face of the behavior of an overprotected French working class, unable to survive in the harsh capitalist environment faced by its British and American counterparts? Yes and no.
Public spending cuts are now being felt hard in the UK, especially as the population is currently experiencing a significant deterioration in their standard of living as a result of high inflation, exorbitant energy, Brexit and falling real wages. The generational contract under which the quality of life should constantly improve from one generation to the next has been shattered. It is clear that this fact, to which is added a certain post-pandemic fatigue, has fueled the vast protest movement in the public sector (transport workers, nurses, ambulance workers, civil servants, teachers, postal workers, university staff), a movement which enjoyed continued public support despite efforts by the government and its supporters in the right-wing press.
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