Unions say they will call a strike from January if the French government goes ahead with plans to raise the retirement age to 65.
The reform was to be presented in December, but it was postponed until January 10. The bill is expected to pass through MPs in the spring before possibly being implemented from the summer.
Read more: The presentation of the pension reform bill is postponed until January
Macron’s arguments are a “pretext”
President Macron said in a recent television interview: “The financial burden is enormous and will continue to grow in the years to come. The only lever we have is to work longer.
He pledged to raise the retirement age to 65 as part of his recent re-election campaign.
But Michaël Zemmour, lecturer in economics at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, says there is only a “small deficit” projected for the coming years and that the system is not in danger. .
He thinks it serves as a “pretext” to push through a reform that the government wants for other reasons: namely, cutting public spending to compensate for lower corporate taxes and increasing productivity by making people work longer.
“As these reasons would not go over well, the government invokes a third reason – the threat to the pension system – but this is not a serious reason.”
Read more: Labor shortage: France plans to tighten unemployment benefit rules
Report finds pension spending will remain flat
In a report published in September, the advisory body of the Pensions Orientation Council concluded that pension expenditure as a percentage of GDP would remain stable over the next five years, rising from 13.8% in 2021 to 13.9%. in 2027.
It should then increase from 2028 to 2032, to be between 14.2% and 14.7%.
However, it should remain stable, or even decrease, between 2032 and 2070.
Population aging is expected to be offset by the effects of previous reforms raising the retirement age and by less improvement in the living conditions of pensioners compared to those of working age.
“We have not yet seen the full effects of previous reforms in France,” he said.
A 2010 reform raised the minimum legal retirement age from 60 to 62 and raised the age at which anyone can claim a full pension, if they have not worked the required time, from 65 to 67 years old.
In 2014, the minimum number of quarters for which it is necessary to have contributed to the system to qualify for a full pension gradually increased from 166 (41.5 years), for people born between 1955 and 1957, to 172 (43 years ) for those born after 1973.
It had previously been 37.5 years until an earlier reform in 1993.
The average retirement age will reach almost 63 in 2030, and 64 in 2040, without further reform, according to a 2018 report by government think tank France Strategy.
Read more: Retirement at 65 (not 62) and monthly pension at €1,100: Macron’s plans
Health report and companies not employing seniors
“People who retired 10 years ago will have a longer retirement than those who stop working today. Since the 2010s, the increase in life expectancy has been smaller than changes in retirement age,” said Dr Zemmour.
Raising the retirement age could also reinforce inequalities between those who work and those who do not, he added.
“Those who work until age 62 will work a few more years, but the 30-40% of people who are no longer working when they retire will experience a longer period of economic insecurity.”
In 2018, for 10 French people aged 60, four were working, three were retired and three were unemployed or inactive, according to France Strategy.
“Retirement protects against insecurity,” said Dr. Zemmour. “Most people who retire lose purchasing power but for the bottom 40% their incomes increase as they gain status.”
Among the reasons for these high inactivity rates are the health consequences of difficult working conditions and the fact that companies do not hire older workers.
According to data from the European Commission, the average Frenchman leaves the labor market at 62.3 years old, compared to 63.8 years old in the EU.
Read more: Debate on the retirement age in France: what is the measurement of years of life in good health?
60% of mayors are over 60
According to Dr Zemmour, delaying retirement to a time when people are much less able to stay active would transform the way it is experienced.
“In France, political life and volunteering depend on retirees, as does childcare. Retirement is no longer the time to do nothing.
He said that this trend dates back to François Mitterrand’s decision to lower the retirement age to 60 and is linked to high employment rates among women and low rates of part-time work, which which means that it is often up to retirees to manage associations and sports clubs. and other groups.
According to the think tank Institut Montaigne, 60% of mayors and 40% of departmental councilors in France are over 60 years old.
Reform must tackle gender inequalities
In addition to the health and income benefits, there are macro-economic benefits to keeping the retirement age at 62, the researcher said.
“Retirees are better protected from fluctuations in the economy and crises, so they maintain a certain level of consumption, which can mitigate the impact of a crisis.”
Rather than changing the retirement age, he believes that any reform should tackle gender inequalities due to the fact that people who have not worked all their adult lives, often women, can end up with miserable pensions.
In a press release published in December, the unions CFDT, CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC, Unsa, Solidaires and FSU, as well as student organizations, warned of “a major social conflict”.
They announced their intention to organize a first wave of strikes and demonstrations “in January if the government persists in its project”.
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