learning from failures

Editorial of the “World”. Two years after failing to reform pensions, Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his own succession, is putting work back to work, but this time in a radically different way. Creating a universal system to make the system more readable and fairer and to enable everyone to organize their professional life as they see fit is no longer on the agenda. The aim now is to make the French work longer to cope with both an aging population and the imbalance in public finances, which has been exacerbated by the series of crises the country has endured since the start of the five-year term.

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The project, which has not yet been worked out by the outgoing president, but whose principle has been confirmed by his loved ones, consists of reducing the retirement age to 65 years from 62 years now. The extension would be gradual, in exchange for the increase of the minimum pension to 1,100 euros for a full career. Special regimes (SNCF, RATP, EDF, etc.) should also be phased out.

The proposed new version is primarily an acknowledgment of the failure. The initial project, complicated and ill-prepared, had generated strong social mobilization before it was finally postponed due to the pandemic crisis. The idea was to improve equality between contributors. But soon the reform proved opaque and not reassuring, as no one had a precise idea of ​​what he would get at the end of his career. In addition, the issue of financial equilibrium was initially avoided, although the increase in deficits has again become the central issue in the coming years.

Take a risk

This time, the priority objective is indeed to save, in the order of EUR 15 billion, in order to avoid as many tax increases as possible. Like Medef, Republicans are in favor of raising the statutory retirement age. But most other presidential candidates reject this solution. It is also disputed by the unions, CFDT foremost, who judge it “unjust and brutal”. The candidate Macron is therefore taking an undeniable risk to advance him when he is favorite in the presidential competition.

His guess is that the mind has evolved. After two years marked by the Covid crisis, the conflict in Ukraine reinforces the feeling that the coming years will be economically difficult and that the sustainability of the French social model is far from certain. Most of our European neighbors already have a retirement age of at least 65 years.

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By pushing the proposal forward in the middle of the election campaign, the outgoing president hopes to get the discharge from the French to quickly implement it if he wins the vote. However, the sharp social tensions created by the previous reform should serve as a lesson. The new project can only see the light of day if the trade union organizations are closely involved. As it stands, the project is very unfair to long careers and the hardest jobs.

Employers, who have campaigned extensively for this reform, must in turn prove that they can implement it. For years, companies have tended to manage their overstaffing by prioritizing the oldest employees. France remains the European country with the lowest employment rate of over-55s. To reverse the trend, this facility must be abandoned as soon as possible.

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