France recently pushed its retirement age from sixty to sixty-two; there is already pressure on the left to move it back to sixty. With people increasingly living into their eighties and nineties, a low birth rate, and shrinking numbers of workers, the math clearly doesn’t add up. “The French model is not sustainable,” Zylberberg said.
With unemployment rising in France, public opinion has gradually shifted on this and similar issues. In the mid-aughts, fifty-seven per cent of French people said they would prefer to have more leisure time than more money. Today, the percentage of those saying that they would give up more leisure for more money is growing, especially among the young. Perhaps that’s one reason that some of the people who are protesting the store closures include workers themselves, who, on Sundays, would prefer the cash to leisure time.
Alexander Stille has a really great post in The New Yorker looking at the French approach to labor (working fewer hours in exchange for more leisure/family time) and the American approach to labor (24/7 capitalism) and why the current state of the French economy may push its citizens to work longer hours (in France, shops are barred from being open on Sundays, and some businesses are rebelling against that).