The ‘Golden Age’ of Retirement Is Over

The ‘Golden Age’ of Retirement Is Over
An elderly woman and a younger woman walk side by side in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 27, 2022 (Sipa photo by Jaap Arriens via AP Images).

After months of strikes and protests that threatened to paralyze France’s economy and topple the government, French President Emmanuel Macron passed a pension reform this past April that raises the retirement age by two years, from 62 to 64. Doing so required bypassing parliament, surviving two no-confidence votes and overcoming a constitutional challenge. The protests are ongoing, now fueled not just by opposition to the increase in the retirement age, but also by outrage at the way it was achieved. However, the reform is now law, and the retirement age will be raised incrementally until it reaches 64 in 2030.

Though Macron’s methods strained France’s democratic processes, his pension reform was fiscally and economically necessary. Across developed countries, aging populations and slowing economic growth are rendering today’s retirement institutions unsustainable. Many countries, from Sweden to South Korea, have already been compelled to make large cuts in government retirement provision. France, where early retirement ages and generous pensions are considered cornerstones of the country’s social contract, long put off the day of reckoning. Despite the predictable backlash70 percent of the French public opposed the reform—Macron decided it could be put off no longer.

Working longer as societies age is both natural and necessary: It is natural because life spans and health spans have risen dramatically since today’s retirement institutions were first put in place, and it is necessary because those institutions are no longer affordable. Many people wish that it weren’t so—raising the retirement age is unpopular in most countries, not only in France. But wishful thinking cannot change demographic and economic reality. France’s pension system is already among Europe’s most expensive, and its cost will continue to grow as the country’s population ages. Working longer is an important part of the solution.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.