Pensions or savings? Ageing in France at the turn of the century
As a consequence of early demographic transition, France was the first country to experience population ageing. The process has occurred relatively slowly however, resulting in gradual social adaptations. In this paper, we examine the changing living standards of individuals aged over 60, their place in society, their income and savings between 1820 and 1940, based on a sample from the TRA survey. We focus on old persons' means of living, at a time with only little pension schemes, and we show that very few people were able to live on their savings. Moreover, the extent to which other ways of living old age were available was rather limited and, in all cases, did not increase so as to face with the ageing process. For instance, municipal charity offices (bureaux de bienfaisance) give a means for prominent citizens to provide local assistance to the poorest people throughout the nineteenth century but their importance waned as the earliest forms of state welfare emerged. Therefore, state pension at a broad scale may be thought of as a response to the increasing proportion of poor old people in the beginning of twentieth century France.
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