The other night Brian Williams mentioned the strikes and protests in France and said "the issue here, a plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62".
Then the reporter in France showed youth setting up blockades, clashing with riot police and burning cars, and then strikers and protesters.
A note of clarity for our American readers: Whatever one might think of the reform, it is not as simple as Brian Williams might lead you to think.
Yes, retirement age will raise from 60 to 62, but so will the years of social security contributions (called "cotisations") from 40.5 years to 41.5 years (and eventually at 42), and the pension age at which you can have full benefit (which is 50% of your average wages in the private sector, and 75% in the public sector) will go from 65 to 67; otherwise, there will be deductions (called "décotes").
In other words, if you start working late (say at about 25), you won't be able to retire with your full pension before 67.This will also be the case in other countries such as Germany which has a similar system, but the change will be more gradual and it is only in 2029 that the Germans will have to be 67 for full benefit (70% of the average net income).
This may not seem like a big deal to Americans, (you can probably detect Brian William's smirk) but it is in France simply because it is a major change fairly quickly. It is true that the French have been pampered and maybe even spoiled, but it is always harder to go from good to worse, even if worse is better than in many other countries.
Now another quick note on the youth violence. Yes, there is some violence but it is limited to a few areas and has only happened in the last few days. It may look very impressive but it is also part of the French myth about the Revolution and needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, the French have a very romantic view of anything resembling a revolution, and my theory is that actually love re-enacting it every so often. It gives them a sense of empowerment.
That being said, it shows a typically French confusion between la rue (the street) and le Peuple (the people), as
NOTE: Last night, the NBC Evening News chose once again to show only the violence of the youth. I suppose the pictures are impressive enough but it is unfortunate that they do not underline that this is only a partial (and somewhat biased) view of what is going.