On Tuesday in an op-ed piece in The Financial Times, Gaspard Koenig, a novelist and the director of Generation Libre, a Paris-based think-tank, wrote that France is run for the benefit of the old. It's a story that's familiar also in Ireland.
In Ireland, the mainly old men who run the country, manage institutions such as the universities, dominate the professions and the firms that have thrived in boom and bust, and are the top earners in the media, were also in prominent roles during the bubble. They have good reason to defend the status quo, which with the security provided by survival of the euro, ensures material comfort until the grim reaper beckons.
Ireland's residential owner-occupier level without a mortgage at above 40%, is high for Western Europe - see figure 6 here [pdf] for 2009; Irish data is missing from Eurostat's recent updates. The old men have insured that 40 years after the campaign by women for equal pay for equal work, a dual labour system in the public service avoids any hassle from incumbents. The policy makers will of course be retired by the time the European Court of Justice will mandate compensation.
Austerity is a popular topic for those with a grip of the public megaphone but it's a personal abstraction to most of them.
On France, which hasn't balanced its books in any year since 1974 while public debt as a ratio of GDP (gross domestic product) has more than quadrupled, Gaspard Koenig says today’s discussions on the virtues of the “French social model” are a rhetorical scam for the baby boomers to cling to their advantages. The welfare state is their welfare – and their children’s burden.
He says of the baby boomers born shortly after the second world war who control most of the country’s structures, "the average age of a French MP is 60. They had it all: sexual revolution, complacent neo-Marxist ideology, easy employment, rising property prices, generous social transfers, free and high-quality health services and a generous retirement. They are designing a society that looks like them: fearful, risk-averse and inward-looking."
SEE also Finfacts article:
Irish farmers hugely dependent on EU welfare after 40 years - - there are more Irish farmers over 80 than under 35!
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