France: Understand Macron’s pension reform – 03/16/2023 – World
In a measure with the potential to escalate protests that occupy the streets of France, the government of Emmanuel Macron resorted this Thursday (16) to a constitutional mechanism to override the Legislature and approve a contested pension reform.
Understand the main points of the reform and popular dissatisfaction.
What changes with pension reform?
The minimum age for retirement rises from 62 to 64 years gradually until 2030, and the contribution time for access to the full pension is extended from 42 to 43 years, as of 2027.
There is also a device for long careers: contributions cannot exceed 44 years. Those who started their career before the age of 21, for example, can retire one year before the minimum age of the general regime (at 63 years old), in a benefit hitherto restricted to those who started work before the age of 20.
And special regimes, with early retirement, will be eliminated, including those for public transport workers, public banks, the electricity and gas sector. Workers of more difficult activities, such as police, firefighters, garbage collectors and nurses, will still be able to retire earlier, but the minimum age rises to 59 years.
There is also the creation of a “senior index”, in which companies with more than 300 employees are required to declare how many people over 55 are employed — a way of exposing companies with good or bad practices.
What are the specific changes for women?
Women who went on maternity leave will receive up to a 5% increase in the benefit at age 64, provided they have 43 years of contribution. Previously, those who took full maternity leave could retire at 62 on a full pension.
How does the government justify the need for the measure?
The answer lies in the national budget. According to management, the renovation will represent savings of €18 billion (R$101 billion). France has the highest government spending on the planet, equivalent to 55% of GDP. And French spending on the pension system is the highest in the rich world, behind only Italy and Greece, and consumes about 14% of GDP.
How did the population respond?
French people have been protesting for weeks in the streets of the main cities. Only 23% assess the proposals as “acceptable”, according to the Ifop research institute, one of the main ones in the country.
In 2010, when the last pension reform was approved, still under Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, this index was 53%. Another Ifop survey found that 78% of French people rejected the use of Article 49.3 to accelerate pension changes.
And what is Article 49.3 of the Constitution, used by the government?
The mechanism allows the approval of bills presented by the government even without the parliamentary seal. It has already been triggered ten times by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne since the beginning of her term in the face of stalemates in the voting of projects in the field of public finances and is considered undemocratic.
Use of the article is limited to only one time when it comes to a regular bill. But when it comes to content linked to a budget law, there is no limit. Taking into account the mechanism’s use on Thursday, it has been applied 100 times since 1958, according to the New York Times. Prime Minister Michel Rocard, in power from 1988 to 1991, used it the most, 28 times.
Is there a way to overturn the use of the controversial article?
Yes. When the prime minister triggers it, parliamentarians have the option to present a motion of censure within 24 hours. If she wins an absolute majority of votes, the proposed law is rejected, and the government may collapse — the president, after all, may be pressured to dissolve the Assembly and call early elections. If, however, the motion is rejected, the government wins the gamble and passes its law.
But motions of censure have not obtained enough votes, so that they have become a symbolic means of expressing the repudiation of deputies to the absence of parliamentary debate.
Last October, for example, the mechanism was used by the French left against the government’s use of Article 49.3 to push forward a minor budget reform — but it was denied.
What did the opposition say?
Three parties have already announced that they will present motions of censure: Insubmissive France, National Rally and little Liot (Liberty and Territories). The rejection of the proposal, after all, managed to unite the ultra-right opposition —represented by Marine Le Pen— to the ultra-left opposition —led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.