In this post I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts that I discussed with my father and older brother some months ago on the welfare state that we enjoy in Europe.
Luca and I went on a holiday trip to Japan 3 years ago. There, while in Kyoto and thanks to a cultural association, we enjoyed an activity consisting of spending the afternoon and evening with a Japanese family at their place.
The Takatori family lived in the centre of Kyoto (a wonderful city). He was an engineer who worked for a big electronics company (I forgot the name), thus I imagine that he earned a decent salary. The family lived in a 40-50 sqm flat, without bedrooms for the teenage children as they slept in futons in the living room. The Takatoris had no car and travelled either by bike or public transport every where.
At some point in the conversation we talked about travelling, holidays, etc., and then I asked him how many holidays did he had? “120 days.” I was surprised, “120 days?!?” He explained it better: “There are 120 days a year in which I don’t work, including weekends”… I started making the numbers: since the year has 52 weeks, 104 days are weekends, these left only 16 days off for Mr. Takatori, including bank holidays. This was in Japan and a medium class family.
I take it that in the rest of East Asia the conditions will be lower and work ethics will be at par with Japan (think of Chinese shops opening schedules in Europe).
When I compare that with Europe: 35 hour work-week (in France), a collective bargaining agreement with 211 working days a year (or 154 non-work days as Takatori viewed it – since weekends are the same here and in Japan, that means we enjoy 34 days more of holidays, or 7 more full weeks!), subsidies for a myriad of things, retirement at 60 (in France, with protests when raised to 62)… well, there’s simply no comparison.
Sure, the system we have here is something to be proud of, but then again, will it last? It’s not like the Takatoris of Japan, China, South Korea, etc., will refrain to: work an hour or a day more, lower a dollar in a price, retire a year later, etc., so we can continue to enjoy our welfare state.
Will it last? I have no answer, it escapes my power of analysis, but if I were you, I’d start saving yesterday.