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France’s Difficult Future

Business, Company Strategy, Economics, Europe
By John Richardson on 07-May-2012

By John Richardson

Francois Hollande, who has the won the French presidential election, talks about cutting the retirement age to 60 from 62 for people who have worked for 41 years.

This is a handy slogan for an election campaign.

But European pension liabilities suggest that people should be working until they are older, rather than retiring earlier.

The record number of over-55s in the West, as a result of the Babyboomer demographics, is also a huge opportunity for governments and companies.

If people work well beyond 60, which they are now able to do because of better healthcare and diets, their experience and expertise will be invaluable. The extra tax revenues will also help solve the pensions crisis.

Older people will be able to help manufacture the “products of the future”, needed for serving the three big emerging customer groups we discuss in chapter 9 or our free e-book, Boom Gloom & The New Normal.

These three groups are:

*The increasing size of the New Old 55+ generation in the West.

*The number of young Westerners struggling with higher unemployment.

*The increasing number of people moving out of poverty in the developing world.

Hollande also talks about trying to help young people through growth rather than austerity – for example, by employing 60,000 more teachers.

Growth will only be sustainable if it involves a partnership between governments and industry in making the products and services of the future. We discuss how these partnerships might work in chapter 10 of our book.

The European petrochemicals industry is heavily focused on managing costs.

It is also constantly adjusting operating rates in a weak and volatile demand-growth environment, as the chart below illustrates:

EuropeanEthyleneCapacityTrackingMay2012.png What more can the industry do? We would be delighted to hear your views.