Pension reform, nonsense? — RT in French

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Emmanuel Macron would consider a pension reform this fall, by reducing parliamentary debates. But the (many) opponents of this project point out that the lengthening of the working years is neither useful in the short term, nor to be done.

Of the off revealed on September 12 that President Emmanuel Macron would grow impatient and would like a pension reform as soon as possible with a minimum of political debate. The hypothesis would be the inclusion of this in the framework of the Social Security Financing Bill (PLFSS) this fall, with the use of the controversial 49.3. The project, modified many times by Emmanuel Macron, would now aim to extend the contribution period and, consequently, to work longer. The points system would be abandoned.

Is an emergency reform nevertheless useful? First of all, the process interrogates. Emmanuel Macron had promised during his re-election and during the legislative campaign “a new method” full of benevolence, confiding on June 3 that the French were “tired of the reforms that come[aient] from the top”. He thereby launched the idea of ​​the National Council for Refoundation (CNR) to promote “a spirit of dialogue and shared responsibilities”, “consensus on the situation of the country”. Finally, by its accelerated tone and its virtual absence of parliamentary debates, a fall pension reform seems to torpedo these promises.

The choice of calendar can also be perplexing. The French are at the heart of a purchasing power crisis, suffering from high inflation. They are also threatened by an energy crisis this winter, due in particular to anti-Russian sanctions and a controversial nuclear policy (with the gradual closure of 14 reactors, including two already shut down, those of Fessenheim). Emmanuel Macron would also expect that the reform will not be popular.

The scenario of a reform for the fall provokes strong opposition from the unions and the left. Pascale Coton general secretary of the CFTC union, ranked in the center, is herself surprised that the file “moves so quickly”. In a statement reported by AFP, she adds that if this scenario is confirmed, “it will be a forced passage [et] they must not be surprised that people take to the streets”. Same story on the side of the CFDT, Laurent Berger adopting a threatening verb vis-à-vis the government: “[S’il] comes out a measure in the next PLFSS on the age of departure or the duration of contribution, we stop all discussion and we take to the streets with all the trade unions.

In the same vein, the confederal secretary of the CGT, Catherine Perret, confirms that “the risk of social conflict is major”. She denounces “one more provocation”, while “all the trade unions are against” the executive’s project.

Even within the majority, the calendar is debated. The spokesperson for the movement of Edouard Philippe Horizons, Frédéric Valletoux, explains on September 15 on France info that he does not want a reform “on the sly”. He asks for “explanation, pedagogy [car] accelerate without explaining, it can’t work [et ce], regardless of the legislative vehicle”. According to Release on September 15, the Macronist President of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, as well as the boss of the new CNR, François Bayrou, would be equally opposed to such a reform by the PLFSS.

A reform to free up financial margins for the State

The challenge may seem all the stronger since the desired goal of the pension reform is not to “save” the model. Indeed, the justifications for a pension reform have gone beyond the framework of the initial argument. This would no longer be used to ensure the sustainability of a system but to find funding through this economy. This admission is clearly exposed: to the press, on September 12, Emmanuel Macron justified the reform, explaining that it would make it possible to finance certain major projects, such as the energy transition, school or health. Olivia Grégoire, ephemeral spokesperson for the government last spring, motivated, for her part, the extension of the legal age by the need to finance “in particular the question of autonomy, dependence”. It is therefore necessary to make savings on pensions to transfer the money to other sectors.

In reality, the new justifications of the executive can hardly be otherwise. The Pensions Orientation Council announced on September 12 that French pension funds had generated a surplus of 900 million euros in 2021 and should do even better this year, with a surplus of 3.2 billion. The demographic problem (and the increase in the number of retirees compared to the number of assets) could, however, plunge the funds back into the red. Except that if the battle for employment is won, employee contributions could help limit the expected deficits.

The false problem of funding for pensions

On the other hand, the economist Gilles Raveaud recalled on November 25, 2019 on BFM Business that a pension reserve fund (FRR) had existed since 2001, endowed with more than 30 billion euros in 2019, an amount which would be around 26 billion at the end of 2021 according to some estimates. Added to this are the reserves of supplementary pension systems of several tens of billions of euros, 68 billion at the end of 2021 for the main body Agirc-Arrco. And Gilles Raveaud to complete that the Debt Amortization Fund (Cades) “will finish repaying the Social Security debt in 2024 and will release at least 24 billion euros”.

The economist Thomas Porcher, member of the collective Les économies atterrés, also assured on September 15 on RMC that the pension system in France had no “real financing problems”, despite a possible demographic change: “The demographic shock whose we are being told, it is possibly in 2050 according to forecasts, [avec] seven [retraités] for ten jobs. The demographic shock has taken place and it is behind us.”

Finally, to fight against poverty, the French pension system is “one of the most effective in the world” according to Thomas Porcher: “Today we have a million pensioners [français] under the poverty line […] In Germany, there are three million.

More and more precarious seniors?

But wouldn’t an extension of retirement lead to precariousness? Indeed, the employment rate in France of the over 50s is low and lagging behind other European countries” (56.2% in France against 61.3% in the euro zone).

Sociologist Serge Guérin believes that “before relaunching the pension reform project, the government should seek to revalue the employment of the over 50s, who have been ousted in large numbers from the labor market”. The president of the CFTC, Cyril Chabanier, supports that before discussing the retirement age, it is necessary to negotiate on “the revaluation of pensions, the employment of seniors [ou] hardship”.

And for senior employees, age means that there are more work stoppages… financed by Social Security. In short, a saving on the one hand on the backs of employees (inevitable reduction in the number of years of retirement pensions to be issued), could well lead to an expense on the other.

BG



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