Energy bills, retirement age and pensions in the UK compared to France

5 April 2023
What was claimed

Energy bills in France are 50% of those in the UK.

Our verdict

The regulated unit price of electricity in France is about 53% of that in Great Britain, while the price of gas is about the same. So it’s plausible that an electricity-only household in France might pay around 50% that of an equivalent in the UK, excluding any cash benefits that may be available to support people with their bills—and not taking account of how much energy people actually use.

What was claimed

French workers retire six years earlier.

Our verdict

The legal minimum retirement age at which someone can claim their pension in France is currently 62, while in the UK it’s currently 66. The gap between the actual average age people retire is smaller.

What was claimed

French pensions are double UK pensions.

Our verdict

In 2021, the OECD found that total net pensions in France accounted for 74% of previous earnings, compared to around 58% in the UK. This doesn’t account for other benefits, or how much people pay into them.

A Facebook post compares UK energy bills, retirement age and pensions to the equivalent in France. 

It claims energy bills in France are half that of the UK’s and that people in France retire six years earlier with double the pension. It says that they are “better off” and this is “because they strike”. 

But the post, which has been shared over 1,000 times, is missing context and not all of the figures are accurate. 

Full Fact has previously written about very similar claims in the past, including a misleading post comparing pension systems in the UK, France, Spain and Germany.  

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Energy bills

The post claims that energy bills in France ”are 50% of ours”.

The figure may come from an article in the Daily Telegraph in August 2022 that reported the average British household, under the energy price cap, was paying around £1,971 per year,  while French customers on regulated tariffs were paying around 41% of this (£803). This claim was also reported elsewhere

Full Fact has contacted The Telegraph but has not been able to verify the French figure. 

Both countries have implemented policies to help households with rising energy bills. In August 2022, the UK Government implemented an “energy price guarantee” which is set lower than the old cap on the unit price of gas and electricity. If kept at this level, a typical household energy bill would cost around £2,500 in Great Britain (the situation is different in Northern Ireland). Originally, this was due to end in April 2023, but it has now been extended by three months to June

In France, the government implemented a tariff shield, known as ‘Tariff Bleu’, which restricts the amount that the state energy supplier EDF could increase its prices. This was originally set as 4% in September 2021 but went up to 15% for gas in January 2023 and the same for electricity in February 2023. 

Considering the price guarantee and EDF’s regulated tariff shield, the current average unit price of electricity in France is 53% of the UK’s. As of March 2023, the unit price in the UK is 34p per kWh in Great Britain and 21¢ per kWh (18p) in France. 

However, gas prices in Britain and France are broadly similar under the guarantee and regulated tariff. In Britain, gas costs 10p per kWh and between 10.4¢ and 12.8¢ per kWh  in France. 

There are standing charges for both electricity and gas across the two countries. For electricity, it comes to around £15 per month in Britain and between €9 and €20 per month in France. For gas, It is £8.30 per month in Britain and between €9 and €21 per month in France, depending on consumption and what zone you live in. 

While gas prices and standing charges are broadly similar, electricity is much cheaper in France and so it’s plausible an electricity-only household in France would pay just over half of an equivalent household in the UK. 

However, there are many things that this does not take into consideration. The figures do not take into account other support that is available.

For example, the French government supplied €200 for households whose annual taxable income is less than €10,800 per person and €100 for households who earn between €10,800 and €17,400. The UK government has also provided a one-off £400 grant to households to help pay bills and has other support schemes for low-income and vulnerable individuals. 

Besides the different levels of government intervention, various other factors influence energy bills in the UK and France, such as how the energy market works in each country, sources of energy, and patterns of energy usage.

Retirement age

The post claims that French workers “retire 6 years earlier” than British workers. That’s not currently the case.

The minimum age at which someone can receive the full state pension in France is currently 62. In the UK, people reaching retirement now become eligible to receive their state pension at 66. This is a difference of four years, rather than six.

In France, widespread strike action and nationwide protests have been taking place over plans to increase the legal minimum retirement age by two years, to 64, by 2030.

The UK is also set to gradually increase the state pension age to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and then again to 68 between 2044 and 2046. 

These figures show the minimum age at which people become eligible to receive a state pension in each country—not the average age at which people actually retire. 

In 2021, the average age that people actually retire in France was 62.9. In the UK this was 64.55 in 2022.


The claim that French pensions are “2x higher” requires a lot of context as the two pension systems are different.

The UK state pension will rise to between £156.20 and £203.85 per week as of April 2023. 

The state pension is not tied to how much someone earned while working. UK workers often also take out private occupational pensions to provide income in retirement. 

There is no limit to how much someone can contribute to their private pension in the UK, although there are tax implications. However, as of 6 April 2023, these tax implications are due to change. A cap on the total amount a person can save in a pension without paying extra tax is being lifted and the annual tax-free contribution is increasing from £40,000 to £60,000 per person.

In France,  the pension system consists of a basic scheme, which provides a minimum payment of between around £134 and £146 per week as of January 2023 as well as a points-based mandatory occupational scheme that pays out more depending on the best 25 years of someone’s past earnings. These are both public schemes.

So if you compare the average public pensions in the UK and France, the payments in France are higher—although it’s unclear on what basis they could be called double, as the Facebook post claims. 

When you look at total pensions, which takes into account the considerable private element in the UK, French pensions are still higher, but again not as much as claimed. 

A common way to compare pension values is using “replacement rates” which consider pension earnings as a share of previous earnings. 

In 2021, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published data showing that in France, net pensions accounted for 74% of previous earnings, while in the UK they account for about 58%. So, again, this is far from the difference claimed in the post. 

These don’t account for any other benefits pensioners may receive, or the amount people are taxed, or otherwise contribute to pension schemes, and how this may affect their income levels earlier in life.

Image courtesy of Prime Minister’s Office

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