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The Battle Over Retirement Age in France | English Lesson

Feb 22, 2023

Today, we are going to talk about retirement age.

Listen to this headline, published on February 11, 2023:

France braces for protests as Macron pushes forward with pension reform.


France braces for protests as Macron pushes forward with pension reform.

“Brace for protests” means to get ready for possible problems or disturbances that could happen during a protest or demonstration. So, what is it about pension reform that has so many people upset in France? Well, France’s government has proposed raising the statutory retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 in a major reform to the pension system.

What do I mean by ‘statutory retirement age’?

Statutory retirement age refers to the age at which an employee is required by law to retire, as determined by the government. This retirement age is typically set by legislation, and employers are legally obligated to enforce it. Statutory retirement age.

So why does the French government want to push ahead with this reform, in spite of all the protests? Well, the root of the problem –– and by “the root of the problem” I mean the origin of the problem –– is that with improvements in healthcare, people are living longer than ever, and the number of ‘senior citizens’ is increasing. ‘Senior citizens’ is another way to say ‘elderly citizens’ or ‘old people’. In other words, people are living longer, and France is dealing with the economic consequences of having an ‘aging population’.  With people living longer, the length of time retirees receives a pension and other forms of social security benefits increase, such as medical services.

Policymakers there argue that increasing the retirement age will increase the number of people in the workforce and reduce the burden on social security programs. On the other hand, people opposed to the measure say that increasing the retirement age can also have negative impacts on workers because they’ll have to work longer than they planned, which limits their ability to enjoy their later years. This is especially true when the workers work at physically demanding jobs. So, as we can see, balancing the needs of individuals and society when it comes to retirement age is a controversial issue for policymakers.

Here is a bonus for you today. I want to teach you the idiom ‘ripe old age’. “Ripe old age” can be used to describe someone who has lived a long and fulfilling life and has gained a great deal of experience and wisdom. It is a positive and respectful way to talk about someone who has lived a long time. You can use it like in this example: “My grandfather lived to the ripe old age of 98”.

Okay, listen once again to the pronunciation of our key phrases:

• Brace for protests
• Statutory retirement age
• Aging population
• Social security benefits
• And the idiom “ripe old age”.

If the topic of retirement interests you, check out podcast number 7, which covers the topic of pensions.  If you are interested in taking private classes online with me, I offer packages of 10 hours and 30 hours of class. It doesn’t matter what time zone you are in; we can find a schedule that works for both of us. It’s great fun for me, too, to have students from all over the world.


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Photo credit:  CC BY-SA 4.0

File:Sens-FR-89-manif 19 01 23-réforme retraites-16.jpg

Created: 19 January 2023


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