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Le problème de la retraite

Le problème de la retraite

Bernard Vinet

Volume : 36-4 (1981)


The Problem of Retirement

Retirement, as a social institution is not recent; it is dating back to the second century before the Christian era. What is recent is the generalization of retirement due to the tremendous expansion of wage earning during the last three decades. When the majority of the population consisted of farmers, small businessmen and craftsmen, retirement was not a problem. But today, it is a serious preoccupation for all those interested by social questions. A brief survey of the literature on retirement shows that thousands of publications have appeared on the subject during the last five years. Nearly 80% of the literature considers retirement as a crucial phase, generating a cascade of losses: loss of prestige, loss of social identity, loss of income, loss of social relations, loss of health, etc. It seems that retirement for the majority is the result of social determinism; it is the spoiled reproduction of deeply rooted habits and behaviors. Those who already hold a privileged place in the economic., social and cultural System can maintain a decent level of social activities. But the others, with little or no resources (financial and cultural), cannot face the brutal fact of retirement. To change that, work should be changed.

Life is divided into three definite phases: schooling, work, retirement. As human life grows longer, more important is given to the extremities (education and retirement). It seems, however, that the problem lies with the work phase as every-thing is done according to it. Thus, schooling prepares the work, retirement or leave work. We feel that as long as we do not tackle the work phase, the problem will not be solved in its other aspects.

These days, work is more and more divided in fragments and thus completely devoid of interest. On the other hand, workers are more and more educated, but un-fortunately strongly submitted to technological constraints instead of the reverse. Consequently, work is considered as forced labour, as a vast System of management permitting to buy leisure outside of it. The constant growth in production (the spiral production-consumption) as well, leads to a triple dead-ends: debts, exhaustion of ressources and pollution.

Is it possible to consider work, not as a tool to increase production, but as an instrument to permit a better life to all workers, taking into consideration the other aspects of existence such as family life, social relations, leisure, etc.? This means new planning and rethinking of working life which goes far beyond the recent concept of QWL. New avenues are submitted for consideration and discussion such as improvement in QWL, distribution of working time, secularization of the week-end demystification of unemployment, sabbatical leaves for workers, and so on. If work is a right it must be distributed among workers. It should also be spread out during days, weeks, years and even lifetime, from adolescence to death. Thus, work as an activity no more limited to a specific phase of life, but integrate and alternating with the other dimensions of life according to the aspirations, aptitudes and health of each individual.

Such a re-organization of work would have its influence on each person as well as on society.

1) No more compulsory retirement with all its consequences. The rights and dignity of the person will be respected.

2) The aged persons having the opportunity to work according to their aptitudes and capacity will keep their place in the society with all the social, psychological, economical and cultural value attached to it.

3) Having kept their place and dignity in society the older person can maintain better physical and mental conditions: less psychosomatic illness, decrease in health and welfare costs, more active people to provide for the inactive — sound economic effects, etc.