Pension reform: what are the problems with Macron’s project?

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“All leads” are being studied, said Olivier Véran. The government spokesperson spoke this Wednesday, September 14, 2022 from the Elysée Palace about the pension reform, which has been of great interest to the executive lately. The question, indeed made it known Emmanuel Macron, cannot wait any longer. But what exactly are we talking about? Overshadowed in recent times by other subjects deemed more important (such as the inflationary wave that is hitting the country), pension reform has been discreet. Almost forgotten…

As it stands, the government’s project still appears very vague, as its spokesperson has acknowledged. At least, at least in terms of form! No one doubts, a priori, the intentions of Emmanuel Macron. The president made his ambition quite clear during the presidential campaign: he wants to gradually raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 65 to push everyone to work longer. It is on the way to validate this evolution that the doubt remains.

“The operational modalities, starting with the legislative modalities, are not known to date”; declared Olivier Véran at the end of the Council of Ministers, before affirming that the executive was indeed considering “the track which would lead us to propose a reform through the Social Security financing bill” (PLFSS), as reported by Ouest-France. A decision that some, among the unions, consider “brutal”, when they simply do not speak of a “hidden measure”.

“This kind of initiative smacks, in fact, of the political expedient. It is difficult not to see in it a desire not to debate, since the budget is one of the texts of law that cannot not be voted on. It is a practical question: we must be able to pay civil servants next year, for example”, observes Alexandre Delaigue, associate professor of economics and management at the University of Lille 1 and who also taught at the military academy of Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan. According to him, this kind of method is a “political coup” but is completely consistent with the institutions of the Fifth Republic, its constitution. “They were designed to give free rein to governments, not to constrain them,” he informs.

Emmanuel Macron could therefore easily take advantage of such a provision. Does that mean it would be a good idea? Not necessarily…

While it may seem difficult to talk about a democratic problem when the maneuver envisaged is made possible by our institutions, it is clear that it could have difficulty passing on to the population. “Today, there is a strong expectation of common participation, to which the executive has pretended to want to respond by evoking debates and the calling of collective agreements”, indeed recalls the researcher. And he continued, without appeal: “To vote for the pension reform as a simple amendment to the PLFSS is the application of a program centered on the obsessions of a restricted group of senior civil servants who decide everything at all summit. It is not playing the card of consensus, appeasement or sending the message of a changed policy”.

This is far from being the only problem that the President of the Republic’s project could cause. The vagueness maintained around the latter is one in its own right, asserts the economist, who is categorical: the question of pension reform comes up too often in the public debate. “We have to settle this subject, stop talking about it all the time: to maintain the subject in this way, to let the specter of reforms which follow one after the other hover, it is to block all visibility for the French men and women. who never know what sauce they will be eaten. Their only certainty is that the retirement they will benefit from tomorrow is being looked at today by the political class who, de facto, see in it a potential budgetary room for maneuver “, indicates Alexandre Delaigue. “We need a lasting system rather than a permanent vagueness, which maintains anxiety and bad policies”, he judges.

One last question remains: is the pension reform, as advocated by Emmanuel Macron, in any case really necessary? The latest report from the Pensions Orientation Council (COR) draws “a worsening of the deficit in the years to come, after a small transition to green”, informs L’Express.

“The need for pension reform is under discussion. For a very long time, it has been considered necessary because it responds to a desire to reduce the increase in the weight of pensions in GDP. Today, it is around 16% Without intervention, it will necessarily have to grow, given the aging of the French population. However, a series of reports and studies estimate that it should rather be reduced to 14% to avoid economic problems”, first recalls Alexandre Delaigue… who however evokes another reason, no less political.

“The other aspect, which should not be lost sight of, is the budgetary dimension. Retirement pensions are, today, the big chunk in which to find additional leeway. Education, health , defense are all areas that can no longer be touched. Budgetary action can therefore only focus on pensions and this does not necessarily reflect an in-depth societal reflection on what the right retirement age should be. departure or place of work”, underlines the teacher-researcher. Obviously, this is above all an arithmetic question…