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  • Salomé Bonneyrat

A key to understand why French people disagree with the pension reform

Since mid-January, the French media have been saturated by only one piece of news; the pension reform monopolizes all the discussions on the television as well as making the headlines. However, the debate touches more than just the conversations among experts. It handles the majority of the citizens creating cleavages inside the public discussion.

The LREM ( La République En Marche; political party of the French President) has said that a change in the pension system is needed and has already announced its willingness to push the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. The economists and the rest of the population are skeptical whether this reform will benefit the majority or reinforce class cleavages.

In January the protests held in Paris gathered more than 80,000 people in Paris; in total, the police stations all around the french Hexagon counted more than one million participants, a record never reached in the last ten years. The protest was instigated to demonstrate the discontentment of the French population towards the reform. To pass the new law, the government used the infamous clause 49.3, which allows the government to force the passage of a law without the agreement of the parliament; the strikers hoped the government would change their mind on the amendment, following the days of the protests.However, the extremely contested project has already been presented in the parliamentary session of February 6, while only two of the twenty articles proposed in the project intended by the executive have been discussed. Nevertheless, if the project seems largely debated, the government claims the measure is necessary for many reasons:

The changing demography makes reforms necessary

The government says the life expectancy lengthening engenders necessary changes in the French pension system. Indeed, since the living conditions along with the medical research get better, people tend to live longer; therefore, the time of their delivered pensions gets prolonged. For this reason, more money is necessary to pay retired people pensions. This would not be a problem if the new worker labor market had been equivalent to the number of newly retired people. Unfortunately, it is not the case; therefore, the government suggests that in 2040 the ratio of workers financing the pension of one pensioner will be 1.3 to one, an unbearable surcharge for the workers in the long term. The solution proposed by the government to solve this problem is to make people work longer to contribute more and thus make the situation for the workers in the long-term view more manageable.

Creating more social justice

The government tries to defend itself by suggesting that their reform will benefit the more disadvantaged part of society. They said the reform should be able to increase the smaller pensions by practically 100 euros per month, pushing the minimal gross assistance to 1,200 euros. In this dynamic, the government predictions demonstrate that the pension payment in 2032 will reach 14,7% of GDP instead of the actual 13,85.

The French economist undecided on the benefits of the reform:

Economists have yet to give a common opinion on the government reform, economists invited during debates on television contradict each other points of view and arguments on whether the pension reforms are the right things to do or the reform will not lead to more social justice. On the one hand, some economists argue in favor of reforming the pension system. They claim that such reform would highlight the lack of competitiveness of the French market. With an older and smaller workforce the French market would not be able to compete with countries such as China and India, where the workforce keeps increasing and the costs are drastically less than in France. On the other hand, the other French economists believe the solution to the competitiveness on the international market is not to reform the pension system. In their view, it is quite unfair towards the already disadvantaged social and economic groups, in contrast to what affirms the government.

The reform reinforces socio-economic cleavages:

Women once again disadvantaged

The executive predicts the minimum age for a fully paid retirement to be 64 years old, this is without considering the intentional and intentional breaks that can occur in the work life of a citizen. Therefore, women tend to be more impacted by the reform; since women, more often than men, stop in their professional careers to take care of their children.

The working classes impacted

On average, French people retired at 64 years old have ten more years of life without any chronic health condition. Nonetheless, this measure is impacted by the living conditions of the people; chronic diseases such as diabetes affect 2.5 more times than the 10% most disadvantages over the 10% wealthier. Outside of the incomes and the way of living, the job exercised impacts workers; according to a survey realized by Insee (The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies which collects and analyzes information on the French economy and society), 82% of the managers and directors say having good health when they retire. In comparison, only 75% of the working class and even less 67% of farmers say having good health conditions when it comes to stopping their activity.

To complain to its detractors, the executive has already addressed that an amendment is anticipated, making mandatory for all workers above 61 a medical check-up to prevent any apparition of medical problems. However, the medical federation in France (SNPST) has let know on its website that more than the measure decided to overcome the health problem is needed from their point of view.

Retirement a precious time:

The president of charity organizations already plans against the risk of missing volunteers since the elderly retired persons represent a large part of their volunteers. In France, a third of the volunteers in trust organizations are retired persons. But with the diminution of people going on retirement in the next couple of years, the charities will have to rely on working people and be able to adapt their request to the possibility of working people who cannot dedicate their full time to the association and instead are accessible only on specific hours and days. Charities are one of many turned upside down by the retirement reform. French parents with babies and toddlers usually depend on their own retired parents. In total, grandparents look after their grandchildrens for 16,9 million hours per week, particularly young children, and babies from the age of 0 to 5 years old, according to the Dress organization, which belongs to the French solidarity and health Ministry.

The debate in the parliament has just started on January 6 and will take place for twenty days; at the end, if a consensus is not voted by the parliament, the law will be redirected directly to the Senate on February 17, which will again have fifteen days to read and make opposition to the law proposed by the executive since the debated law as been incorporated to the PLFSSR (project of laws for the social security system financing) financial project what allows the government to use the article 47-1 of the constitution to stop the debate in the parliament after twenty days if the parliamentary does not find a consensus within twenty days.

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