The Young & The Old – Japan and France

A country known for its long living citizens, Japan is ironically at risk of halving its population by the end of the century (currently at around 125 million). The Japanese Ministry of Healthy already projects, quite realistically, 100 million by 2050.

The challenges of the non-modernist life (and business) style has caught up with their slow-as-molasses ability (or desire) to change. The Japanese citizens are proving their dissatisfaction, if not disenfranchisement, with the longstanding social inequalities (notably sexist), archaic business practices and isolationist mentality.

The outlook is not rosy and, therefore, couples are not encouraged to proliferate. With the burgeoning tax bills, current public debt and the prospective massive increase in retired and long living Japanese, the outlook is merely the consequence of a system bent on keeping its traditions, only looking inward and, when doing so, without a thread of more modern thinking.

Meanwhile, France, a country known for its great wines, lazy summers and robust tourism, could face a similar end if its trends continue. The country has experienced a well documented dramatic fall off in nativity rates. The “rich” and sometimes famous are leaving in ever growing quantities (649 individuals in 2005 with an average wallet of 3.4 million euros), representing a departure of up to an estimated 32 billion euros since 1997 thanks to the tax on inheritance.

A short visit to London or New York (or even Montreal), and the number of French (not Quebec) accents—among the young professionals—is hard to avoid. The real way to vote is with your feet or, dare I say it, in bed. Leave or be immaculate. The number of traditional families with 4+ children (naturally I am referring to the Roman Catholic type, not the prolific Romanian imports) can only decline – if only to remain more nimble and potentially more mobile.

With electoral platforms for the May elections promising more government spending (+ 30 to 35 billion euros), one can hardly imagine that tax rate hikes will abate, much less decline. Is France really ready for change? Does it really want change?

When Ségolène Royal reverts to using former PM Lionel Jospin as an aide and the French delegation to the European Union keep on promoting their socialist model, it seems the current government and a Presidential hopeful have played their cards. And, with the likelihood of a large retired community, un-motivated workforces and handicapped entrepreneurs, on top of a morose economy, the chances are that the French will vote by actions more loudly than by election.

Whatever happens, it is best to stay young at heart?

p.s. Without meaning Partie Socialiste, who on earth is the PM of France these days?

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