As France Moves to Delay Retirement, Older Workers Are in a Quandary – The New York Times


During her 38-year career as a sales and marketing manager, Christine Jagueneau rarely thought about retirement. But when her job at a French industrial company was eliminated just before her 59th birthday last February, the idea of tapping her pension took on unexpected urgency.

Despite nearly a dozen job interviews, she said, employers have suggested that she’s too old to be hired. She has just enough savings to coast to France’s current retirement age of 62. But a government plan unveiled last week that would make the French work longer, to age 64, risks undermining her financial security, along with that of millions of older job seekers who have been effectively shut out of France’s labor market.

“We’re being told to work more,” said Ms. Jagueneau, who is eager to work and feels dismayed to be collecting unemployment for the first time in her life. “But it’s almost impossible for older people to get jobs, because companies in France won’t hire them.”

As President Emmanuel Macron embarks on an overhaul of France’s expensive and generous pension system in order to preserve its finances, the notion of forcing people to delay their retirement has incited outrage. Polls show that four out of five people oppose raising that threshold, and the country is bracing for raucous nationwide strikes starting this week, as labor unions and workers of all stripes protest efforts to change a cherished totem that has long been viewed as a political third rail by the French.

“Retirement is considered sacred,” said Luc Rouban, a senior research fellow at the Center for Political Research at SciencesPo in Paris. “For many, it’s like reaching paradise.”

But the clash has also thrown an uncomfortable spotlight on one of the biggest under-the-radar problems in France: the often-taboo subject of age discrimination in a country where millions of older job seekers want to work, but find themselves shut out of the labor market before they reach the official retirement age.

In recent surveys by Indeed France, the country’s biggest online jobs board, a quarter of job applicants over 55 reported that employers had told them they were too old to qualify. Four out of 10 employers surveyed by Indeed said they didn’t intend to recruit anyone older than 45. And a quarter of companies acknowledged they would hire a younger person at a lower salary over an older candidate.

“Despite valuable experience, older workers often find themselves shunned by recruiters, who have certain preconceptions about age,” said Charles Chantala, a senior director at Indeed. Those include concerns about health and stamina, salary demands commensurate with experience, training in the latest technologies and the idea …….


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