Pension reform, the importance of the sincere search for the common good

Pension reform, the importance of the sincere search for the common good

The adoption without a vote of the postponement of the retirement age adds to the anger when a majority of French people already considered the project as unfair, in particular because unemployment hatches careers. They do not feel listened to and do not see solidarity in the efforts.

"Development is impossible, if there are not upright men, economic actors and politicians strongly challenged in their conscience by the concern for the common good", affirms the encyclical Caritas in Veritate (love in the truth, 2009) of Benedict XVI which reinforces the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSD).

It's a fact, the age pyramid, with an increasing proportion of those aged 65 or over (currently 21% of the population), and the growing life expectancy cast a shadow of apprehension on the future financing of pensions, while the youngest workers (15-24 years old) and 25-49 years old are proportionally the most affected by unemployment, ahead of those aged 50 or over, with a clear over-representation of the former (respectively 17,3%, 6,6% and 5,2% in 2022).

In raw numbers, 25-49 year olds are by far the most numerous with 1 unemployed, compared to 162 for those aged 000-574 and 000 for those aged 15 or over.

The youth unemployment rate is rose above 15% after 1980 to never go back below, and the increase in the retirement age to 64 at full rate from 2027 - provided you have worked for 43 years - is an example of how this reality is impacted by the reform, just as unemployment is neglected for those who are close to retirement and will have to wait even until age 67 to have a pension without a discount.

"This problem of unemployment is still particularly significant for many seniors who will be asked to work longer, when they are no longer in business", observes Joseph Thouvenel, former vice-president of the CFTC and today now managing editor of Capital Social. The former Christian trade unionist recalls that Emmanuel Macron had declared that it would be "hypocritical" to raise the legal retirement age before having solved the problem of unemployment.

The need for solidarity and social justice

If a reform of the pension financing system is necessary for the common good, it is not so urgent as to pass in force to Parliament, because the accounts of the pension system are now in surplus and should be 3 billion this year. Even if the deficit will be 0,5 to 0,8 GDP points this year and for 10 years, according to a provisional estimate from the Pensions Orientation Council which speaks of a hole of 20 billion euros in 2032.

A figure that is certainly relatively close but which, compared to the 171 billion immediate budget deficit of 2023, questions the hierarchy of emergencies and the silence regarding the necessary budgetary adjustments and the concern for this common good. This concern is considered insincere by the French when the efforts are not shared.

Thus, the Senate has largely approved the postponement of the legal retirement age, but "how can we accept that a majority of senators vote for the end of the special regimes, but not theirs?" asks Thouvenel who recalls that the senators benefit from retirement at 60, 2200 euros after six years in office. And to emphasize that "the pension deficit is essentially due to the public and to the special schemes badly managed by the public authorities":

"Some special diets need to be reformed, others not, like the military or opera dancers."

A figure shows that state management is not necessarily the best, unlike that subject to a certain principle of subsidiarity, notes the former trade unionist:

“The agreements between employers and unions have made it possible to maintain (compulsory) private pensions in balance, with more than 72 billion euros in reserve.”

Another injustice, Thouvenel observes that the reform should have said that "whatever its status, the exercise of the same profession, under the same conditions gives the right to the same pension", by really taking into account the arduousness of the tasks.

If the senators voted for a pension surcharge of up to 5% for mothers, Thouvenel believes that "the necessary reform is one that would be based on a pro-active family policy". Demographic aging is not countered by a birth rate policy, which leads to a fall in the number of workers and therefore to a fall in pensions. In 2021, the proposal for a demographic pact by François Bayrou, High Commissioner for Planning, had met with silence from the government.

Jean Sarpedon

Image credit: Shutterstock/ Vernerie Yann

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