Donning their distinctive yellow vests, la France des invisibles of lorry drivers, factory workers, carers, shop assistants and many others began to be seen again. This is the France that gets up early in the morning before travelling long distances to work for low pay, poor job security and little thanks.
It was no accident that the yellow vests assembled at roundabouts (or les ronds-points ). In the absence of rural public transport and given that the shopping centre has replaced the small businesses of the villages and towns where they resided, a car was essential to their way of life. A middle-aged woman was asked by French radio why she chose a roundabout (“of all places”) to stage a protest. Her answer was curt: "we don’t meet people anymore. There is nothing in the village. The last café has closed. We have to drive five miles to the nearest boulangerie".
Her comments touched a nerve. She had painted a bleak picture of the France rarely seen from abroad or advertised by Air France or Brittany Ferries. The France she spoke of was les provinces that French people drive through and never stop to see. The France of little-heard-of département s like La Meuse or Les Ardennes , where the villages are quiet and the cafés are closed. Where older people have to wait to see a doctor and many young people leave in order to go to university: ‘ La France des marges ’, as Samuel Depraz has written about in a recent book.
The sense of community was on the wane. People had nowhere to get together. Or they had to get in their car and drive to meet people. There was a pervasive sense of frustration and they were ras-le-bol (or fed-up), as Benoît Coquard, a professor of rural sociology has explained. The gilet jaunes movement was born and le peuple , the common people, had spoken.
Instead of laughing at them maybe we should be trying to retire at 62 also? All our supposed economic and technical progress only seems to yield higher rents and property prices for ever smaller homes instead of any real quality of life boost
Wow seriously, don’t you have any hobbies?
I’m definitely not laughing at the idea of retiring at 62. I retired at 47 myself. My concern is expecting it to be paid for out of the public purse. The age demographics for France show one third of the population between 40 and 64 years old. Half the population is above 42 years old. Average life expectancy is 82 years. All those people will be above retirement age in 20 years. France is the most fertile country in Europe but child births are still below replacement level in spite of a massive boost from children or grandchildren of immigrants. The net annual population increase including migration is 0.2%.
So I guess the question is – who’s going to pay for all the people retiring at 62?
Is technological advancement through AI, machine learning etc. not going to be making a lot of these people’s jobs redundant anyway? So people expect that the tech change they are sold will free up lots of leisure time, including earlier retirement. Thought that’s what the push for UBI and the 4 day week were already flagging up.
Personally I don’t believe in the AI hype. But even if I did, I don’t see how it would pay for people’s retirement unless they own or deploy it themselves.
Yellow Vests continue protests against pension reforms in Paris [STREAMED LIVE]
It’s not going to without tax redistribution.