No one in England can escape the economic crisis.
However, in France, I get the impression that the government is ‘protecting’ the French population. The financial problems in Greece could directly affect France but the French, generally, seem blissfully unaware.
People regularly commiserate with me: “Oh, the problems in England are so, so bad, the financial situation is very, very serious and then there are the riots ALL over Britain.”
Politics is not a taboo subject, so anyone can join in the political debate, and views are regularly aired, quite heatedly!
Yesterday, I had just dropped Iona and Joe off at school, the school gates closed and as they did, cigarette packets appeared all around me. At least 75% of the mothers at the school smoke. I wonder if that represents a national average or if it is just a rural anomaly?
One woman starts the conversation: her sister has just become unemployed, but she is not desperate to start looking for a new job, as her unemployment benefit is 80% of her old salary, and she will continue to receive this for 6 months.
This is quite normal. Another woman replies: “The unemployment benefits are too generous, they don’t encourage people to work.”
“She has paid her cotisations (National Insurance), she is entitled to unemployment benefit.”
Now it gets heated. Voices are raised, the teacher looks out of the classroom window, and things quieten down.
Then the conversation turns to the retirement age. The general opinion is that the retirement age should be reduced, NOT increased to enable young people to work.
“But who will pay for the retirement of the population over 55?” I say without really thinking.
Everyone looks at me. Help, I should have kept quiet…
“Mais, Nicole, we all pay cotisations (National Insurance) all our working lives, we are OWED a good retirement” one woman says, and the rest nod in agreement.