Emmanuel Macron acknowledged, Wednesday, March 22, to ask "efforts" to the French with his pension reform which plans to raise the legal age of departure from 62 to 64 years and said he understood their "legitimate anger". An admission that contrasts with the presentation of the reform made at the beginning of January by its Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, who then spoke of a "reform of justice" and "progress".
On the other hand, the Head of State has multiplied untruths and other approximations to justify his reform and the options chosen. France 24 lists them and provides the necessary clarifications.
>> To read: Pensions, arduousness, Borne, social dialogue... The essence of Emmanuel Macron's interview
By the time I entered the workforce, there were 10 million pensioners. Today there are 17 million. In the 2030s there will be 20 million. (...) So this reform is necessary.
Emmanuel Macron relies on demography as the main reason to justify his pension reform. If its figures are correct – there were around 10 million pensioners when it left the ENA in 2004 and there should indeed be about 20 million pensioners in 2030 – the need for a new reform due to the increase in the number of pensioners is not advanced by the Pensions Orientation Council (COR).
While a future deficit of 0.1% of GDP in 2023 to 0.8% of GDP in 2050 is indeed announced in the latest NRC report, published in September 2022, it stresses: "The results of this report do not validate the validity of the speeches that put forward the idea of an uncontrolled dynamic of pension spending." An affirmation repeated in early 2023, both in the National Assembly and the Senate, by the president of this institution, Pierre-Louis Bras.
And for good reason, the demographic dynamic is not new. Previous pension reforms, and in particular those of 2010 and 2014, already took this into account. As a result, the share of pension spending in gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to remain roughly stable in the future, according to the NRC. Even without reform, this spending would increase from 13.8 per cent of GDP in 2021 to 13.9 per cent in 2027, before reaching a range of 14.2 per cent to 14.7 per cent, depending on the scenarios, from 2028 to 2032. In the longer term, between 2032 and 2070, the share they represent in relation to national wealth "would be stable or decreasing", "in a range ranging from 12.1% to 14.7%" in 2070, anticipates the COR.
However, the pension system will indeed be in deficit in the coming years, which may justify, politically, the need for reform. But there was no obligation to change the legal retirement age.
>> Read: Pension reform: a government communication often pinned
We could have said we are lowering pensions. (...) The second solution would have been to increase the contributions of the active (...), [but not those of the companies because] that's not how pensions work. Pensions are contributions from the working population for pensioners.
Emmanuel Macron evokes precisely the main other levers at his disposal to fill the deficit of the pension system, indulging, here too, to some inaccuracies. If households in the poorest 10% receive an average pension of 790 euros per month, remember that households among the 10% richest receive on average a pension of 4,040 euros per month, according to the Observatory of inequalities. Not all retirees are therefore in the same boat.
Regarding employee contributions, the head of state highlighted the problems of purchasing power of the French to justify his refusal to explore this track. However, 59% of French people say they are ready to contribute more to avoid working longer, according to an Ifop survey for the Journal du Dimanche published in January 2023.
Above all, Emmanuel Macron excludes asking companies for the slightest effort, saying that "this is not how pensions work". False: retirement pensions are financed by employee and employer contributions, the employer's share being even higher (60%) than the employee share (40%).
>> Read: Pension reform: who are the winners and losers?
The magic formula, which is implicitly the project of all the oppositions and all those who oppose this reform, is the deficit.
Emmanuel Macron tried throughout his interview to appear as a "responsible" president who agrees to lead "an unpopular reform" for the general interest of the French. He also regretted that the oppositions made the choice to let deficits slip.
Yet no opposition party has denied future deficits in the pension system and their solutions are not based on debt. Thus, the parties of the Nupes (La France insoumise, Parti socialiste, Europe Écologie-Les Verts, Parti communiste), in favour of retirement at 60 with 40 years of contributions, propose to finance the system by increasing salaries – which would have the effect of increasing contribution revenues – by imposing equal pay between women and men, by creating one million jobs, increasing contributions for high earners and abolishing most contribution exemptions.
The National Rally, which wants to maintain the legal retirement age at 62 but with the possibility of leaving at 60 for long careers, proposes for its part to finance the system through an encouragement of the birth rate, the reindustrialization of France and the increase of wages.
Although the opposition's proposals are open to debate and criticism, it is however notable that no opposition party invokes the deficit to finance pensions.
>> Read: Pensions: The Republicans, the new left wing of Macronia?
We are the country of Europe... [who leaves earlier] Look, everyone else is between 65 and 67 years old.
The President of the Republic came with a graph from the newspaper Le Parisien to show that the French are retiring earlier than their European neighbors. If Emmanuel Macron is right, it is however necessary to qualify this statement.
If the comparison of the statutory retirement age does indeed show great disparities, it is preferable to compare the effective retirement age. Because to have a full retirement, the French must currently contribute 42 years and are therefore often forced to work beyond 62 years – many of them with incomplete careers must even go up to 67 years, age of cancellation of the discount. On the contrary, Germans, for example, whose retirement age is set at 66, often prefer to leave earlier, even if it means receiving a lower pension.
Thus, according to a report providing an "overview of pension systems in France and abroad" published in 2022 by the COR, the average age of liquidation of pension rights in France in 2019 was 62.6 years for women and 62.0 years for men. In the same year, the average for women was 63.3 years in Italy, 63.7 years in Belgium, 64.3 years in Spain, 64.4 years in Germany and Sweden and 66.0 years in the Netherlands. For men, it was 62.5 years in Belgium, 63.1 years in Italy, 63.7 years in Spain, 64.0 years in Germany, 64.4 years in Sweden and 66.0 years in the Netherlands.
A gap that continues to narrow since the Touraine reform of 2014 gradually extends the contribution period to 43 years – the current reform aims to accelerate this process – and that the average effective retirement age in France was already moving, by the end of the 2030s, towards 64 years, according to the COR.
>> Read: Pension reform: 47.1, the government's weapon to avoid obstruction
I regret that no trade union force has proposed a compromise. (...) We were told: 'no reform'.
Emmanuel Macron accused the unions, and in particular the CFDT, of having proposed no "compromise" on his pension reform and of having played the policy of the empty chair. "Denial" and "lie", replied Laurent Berger, the boss of the CFDT, "on the fact that there would be responsibility only in one camp, on the fact that the CFDT would have proposed at its congress an increase in the duration of contributions, (...) on the fact that no counter-proposals have been made."
Although the unions are unanimous in opposing the postponement of the legal retirement age, they defend different proposals. The CGT is thus in favour of a return to retirement at 60, while the CFDT proposes a universal points-based system. They have always been open to dialogue since the beginning of discussions last fall with the government, but deplored the inflexibility of the executive on the 64-year-olds.
It is true, however, that at the Lyon Congress in June 2022, the leadership of the CFDT had suffered a slap in the face by being forced by an internal vote to harden its general resolution. Delegates had adopted an amendment stating that "an increase in life expectancy cannot justify an increase in the average liquidation age", thus going against the original formulation, which stated that "an increase in life expectancy may justify an increase in the average liquidation age".
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I would like to remind you that with each pension reform, we have them, and sometimes in much higher numbers.
The President of the Republic judged that the protest against his pension reform was less strong than the previous ones. It's not true. With 1.28 million demonstrators everywhere in France on March 7, according to the Ministry of the Interior, and 3.5 million according to the CGT, this is – whatever the figure chosen – the strongest mobilization in the history of the Fifth Republic.
In comparison, the mobilization against the 2010 pension reform gathered between 12.1 and 23.3 million people on 5 October. On May 13, 2003, between one million, according to the authorities, and two million, according to the unions, demonstrated against the Fillon reform. And in 1995, demonstrations against the Juppé plan gathered at their peak, on December 12, between one million, according to the authorities, and two million people, according to the unions.
It should be noted that while the 2003 and 2010 reforms did indeed come into force, the 1995 pension measures were finally abandoned by Prime Minister Alain Juppé. The reforms of 1993 and 2014 did not provoke strong protests in the streets.
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