Pension reforms: the file that could shake France in 2023

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Pension reforms: the issue that could shake France in 2023

A demonstration for an increase in pension benefits in 2022. The government is expected to announce an increase in the retirement age soon.

At the request of Emmanuel Macron, the French government must confirm on Tuesday its intention to increase the legal retirement age, which will go from 62 to 64 or 65.

It risks fanning the embers even more, says train conductor and Sud Rail union representative Xavier Bregail, speaking of the impact of pension reform on the French social climate.

A few days before our interview, during his traditional televised message of December 31, President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his desire to make changes to the way retirement is managed in the country.

“As I promised to you, this year will indeed be the year of a pension reform that aims to balance our system for the years to come. We need to work more.

— Emmanuel Macron, President of France.

In France, the system works on a pay-as-you-go basis. Thus, French people who are active in the labor market pay contributions used to pay benefits to retirees.

The ratio between retirees and assets is absolutely decisive for the balance of retirement accounts, specifies Gilbert This, professor of economic policy at NEOMA Business School.

Economist Gilbert This refers to the need to add exemptions to the increase in the retirement age.

However, according to the government, it is in particular because of changes to this balance, caused by the aging of the population, that the system is threatened.

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 1950, for a French retiree, there were about five people active in the labor market. By 2020, that ratio had risen to around one to three.

According to the international organization, in 2050, there will be fewer than two French people potentially active in the labor market per retiree.

“The distortion of the ratio of the number of retirees to the number of people in employment is quite strong. This ratio increases over time, which contributes to the imbalance of pension systems. »

— Gilbert Cette, professor emeritus at NEOMA Business School

In its report last September, the Pensions Orientation Council (COR) noted surpluses in the pension funds in 2021 and 2022, but forecast possible deficits in the following years.

To ensure the sustainability of the system, various proposals have been made by politicians, experts and trade unions.

We believe that the efforts are up to our employers to do so, explains the trade unionist Xavier Bregail, for example.

Xavier Bregail, trade unionist and conductor, expects a protest movement against the pension reform.

One of the options proposed is to increase the share of contributions, in particular that of the employer or the State, paid to pension funds.

Another possibility: to reduce the amount of benefits paid to retirees.

The French government has preferred another path: that of increasing the period of contribution to pension funds by raising the retirement age.

According to public statements by President Macron and his ministers, the legal retirement age would thus be increased from 62 to 64 or 65 years old.

This reform, which, if adopted, would come into force in the summer, would bring France closer to several of its European neighbors, where the retirement threshold has already been raised or is in the process of being raised. /p> Start of widget. Skip the widget?End of widget. Back to top of widget?

According to Professor Gilbert Cette, for such a change to be accepted, it is absolutely necessary that this age measurement be associated with other components.

Thus exceptions should be provided for people with disabilities, or even for French people who have had long careers, for example having started working before the age of 20.

The importance of setting exemptions for workers who have arduous jobs and who are particularly exposed to noise or extreme temperatures, or who work at night, is also often mentioned in the public debate.

“All so-called "difficult" should retire earlier to breathe. […] We have colleagues around us who die a few years after their retirement and we don't want that. »

— Xavier Bregail, trade unionist and conductor

In 2010, under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, elected officials adopted a reform raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 years old. At the time, several demonstrations were organized to denounce this change.

Demonstrations were organized in 2010 against a previous pension reform.

More recently, around 2019, a protest movement also opposed a first attempt by President Macron to legislate in the pension file. This change, which would have transformed the very foundations of the system, was finally abandoned in 2020 during the pandemic.

What will be the reaction in 2023? Difficult to predict, says Professor Cete.

France is a country with very high conflict, but it is difficult to predict. So, it is quite possible that from the end of January to February, France will experience a very large-scale social conflict. As it is quite possible that this pension reform, finally, passes with some small difficulties, but without major difficulty, he explains.

Train conductor Xavier Bregail expects a strong protest movement, especially since all the major unions in the country have opposed an increase in the retirement age. He believes that this reform, added to the impact of inflation, could become a trigger.

We believe that we have that power. In France, there are bigger companies, there are professions that find it easier to go on strike, to contest. And we believe that we are in this position, launches the trade unionist.

Recent polls also show that French public opinion is overwhelmingly against the reform. A Harris Interactive poll, carried out on behalf of RTL and published on January 2, suggested that 54% of French people did not want this reform. According to another survey conducted by the firm Elabe for BFMTV, only 27% of those polled are in favor of raising the retirement age.

Despite the risks of demonstrations and strikes, the government seems, this time, determined to act. According to the BFMTV network, President Macron thus declared to his team not to give in to the professionals of misfortune during a recent Council of Ministers.

The table is set for d&# x27; possible political and social turbulence.

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