STUMP » Articles » CORRECTION: The French ARE actually long-lived » 27 March 2023, 19:40

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

CORRECTION: The French ARE actually long-lived  


27 March 2023, 19:40

It turns out a comment I made last week was wrong.

In my post on Friday, March 24, Checking in on French Retirement Age Protests, I tossed off this remark:

As I’ve mentioned before, the French are not particularly short-lived (or long-lived) compared to other European nations.

Well, somebody wrote to me to correct me on this score.

Surely, the French wouldn’t….

Before I get to the actual fact, let me get to my actual reasoning. I do look at international mortality statistics, and I did not recall France standing out — Japan, of course, stands out among nations for longevity. I have been to this page at Our World in Data, and then, I’ve been known to hang out at

I didn’t recall France standing out when I was doing national comparisons. And I would definitely have pulled France, because they have data going back to 1816 in the set.

But the main thinking was this: surely, the French would not be very long-lived, and rioting against a 64-year-old retirement age… that would cement the stereotype of the French being lazy! They would never do that!

After all, they’re pretty energetic in the rioting….

But I understand one could argue that it’s not that they’re lazy. It’s that they did get heavily taxed all those years for the right to retire at an obscenely young age. It’s their right!

The French do have a high life expectancy in retirement

Note: I am definitely not going to be comparing life expectancy from birth, especially period life expectancy. That really doesn’t capture what we’re trying to see.

What I will compare is life expectancy from age 65.

To be sure, the French retirement age being rioted over would only be pushed up to 64 years old, from 62 (at the lower end). But you can still get an idea of trends of longevity in retirement here.

To make fair comparisons between countries, I’m separating the sexes. Let’s pick a few (if I pick too many, you won’t be able to see):
  • France
  • Japan
  • United States
  • Spain
  • The Netherlands
  • Canada

I picked Japan for being the known longest-lived of countries, two other European nations, and then two from North America. I am stopping the graphs at 2019, because I don’t want to deal with COVID-related drops in life expectancy.



Some points to be made — these plots are not using the same vertical scale. I did not start at zero, because I wanted to exaggerate the differences.

But even with the widest difference I could make, there’s really not much difference between these countries on male life expectancy from age 65 (partly because of the countries I chose – I could have chosen countries with life expectancies worse, even much worse, than the United States.)

However, you can see wider differences among female life expectancies.

A larger table of life expectancies – compare 42 countries

Here is a table of life expectancies from 2019, male and female, by country using the OECD data:

The countries are ordered by the female life expectancy, and you can see both France and Spain are at the same level, just behind Japan there. For male life expectancy, several countries are bunched together, as I remarked above.

Either way, yes, France already has difficulty affording such a young retirement age

But getting back to the main point. One can see why the taxation level is so high, as pointed out before:

If you look at the total spending level:

And the government debt:

Yes, I put the United States and Japan in there for comparison. Japan is definitely already older (and shrinking in population) before either the U.S. or France. It can serve as a warning to the rest of us.

Still, I was wrong about the French longevity, and here I correct it.

They are among the longest-lived in the world. And their country has a low official retirement age.

They have very high taxes, and also high deficits and debts to go along with it.

How long this will persist, we shall see.

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