Are there too many retirees? The question is surprising – shocking, perhaps even. However, many experts are concerned about the serious demographic problem that France is facing today. In April 2021, as Planet already explained at the time, the Pensions Orientation Council (COR) published the preparatory work for its annual report. The latter were hardly encouraging on the evolution and prospects for our system of intergenerational solidarity. In question ? A problem of fertility and life expectancy.
Fortunately, we can still read in the report, the impact on the financial stability of the regime should remain minimal. But it is clear that the trend is cause for concern; particularly at the individual level: the time spent in retirement is decreasing, which means that the new generations receive their pensions for a shorter period. At the same time, they work longer. However, this is not the only problem posed by this demographic imbalance… Which is felt with more or less insistence in certain departments.
This is the case in Vendée, for example, where retirees represent 30% of the population, reports Ouest France. Mechanically, such a situation is not without generating specific issues and particular problems.
“In Vendée, but also in the departments of Corsica as in Creuse, the proportion of retirees is higher than it can be on average, on a national scale. This necessarily entails fairly high needs for domestic and sanitary services. Consequently, you need a large working population, which is not always the case”, observes economist Philippe Crevel, for whom some departments are doing considerably better than others.
“In rural areas, where the purchasing power of retirees is low, this staff has less incentive to come and settle and the risk of medical deserts is real. The labor shortage is a concern. In Vendée and, in general, on the coast, the situation is less worrying: the economy is not based only on personal service, which allows the department to hold on without too much difficulty”, he continues.
This “silver eco” which is developing here and there can however pose significant problems, he judges. Explanations.
“The silver economy has often been presented, in France, as the future of the country. In reality, the situation is more complex. The economy is production. However, the silver economy is a form of distribution: retirement pensions, financed by the work of active people, make it possible to finance… the work of active people”, the macro-economist’s entry note, which lists the home help work, leisure activities, cultural and health services. “Retirees can finance their needs thanks to the money received as a result of the work of the assets. It is therefore necessary that the assets produce”, he continues. Too big a shift at the national level can therefore be problematic.
And the director of the Cercle de l’Epargne to take the example of Portugal, which “made this bet, for a time”. “Portugal has played on tax incentives to attract retirees from all over the world. They had to put an end to it because the situation had many perverse effects: there were too many retirees, too few workers and this was causing property prices to skyrocket… to the detriment of workers”, recalls- he.
The demographic problem observed in France results from several factors. First, underlines Philippe Crevel, it is explained by “the global aging of the population”. “Baby boomers are now approaching retirement age. Today there are 17 million retirees in France, there should in all likelihood be 23 million by the middle of the century”, he continues.
This is far from being all: we must also take into account the decline in fertility observed over the past 30 years or so. “That means the labor force is going to plateau, if not shrink. In the past, in the 1970s and 1980s, there were four contributors for every retiree. From now on, we are at 1.4 contributors for 1 retiree”, he recalls again. Clearly, there are no longer enough workers.
Solutions do exist, however. But not all of them are easily applicable. “It is difficult to control the fertility rate, but it would be theoretically possible to increase the number of workers by resorting to immigration. Here, the problem is political. It is also possible to improve the employment rate of young people by reducing unemployment and that of seniors by pushing back the retirement age”, further notes the expert. Last lead? Improve employee productivity.