Macron’s reform in parliament for the first time: Heated debate on pension expected

Status: 02/06/2023 01:32 a.m

For President Macron, it is a lighthouse project – it is met with rejection from the majority of French people: the controversial pension reform will be discussed in parliament for the first time today. The government uses a trick.

By Stefanie Markert, ARD Studio Paris

A budget minister, a conservative and a right-wing extremist party leader and a far-left member of parliament debate the pension reform on television: one is a dead-end enemy and talks into the other. It will be no different from this afternoon in the National Assembly. She has reform on the table and demands from the far left and far right for a referendum.

“We are the first opposition group. Of course, it’s our job to lead the battle in the National Assembly,” says Marine Le Pen from the far-right Rassemblement National: “That’s why we submitted a request for a referendum. Emmanuel Macron himself has the option of pension reform not impossible. But he changes his mind like his shirts!”

“A Collective Effort”

A referendum? With every new detail about the reform, the population seems to be more hostile to the reform. Most recently, it was more than two-thirds of the French. The last appeal by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne right after the 8 p.m. TV news didn’t help either: “Pension reform is a collective effort that we demand of the French,” she said. “I hear the concerns, but I also have to tell them the truth: If we don’t make the reform, our pension system, the solidarity between the generations as the core of our social model, will not hold up.”

Borne had wanted to sell their reform as fair, balanced and progressive. But suddenly it came out that people with a long working life would not have to pay a maximum of 43 years of contributions, but even 44. The conservative Les Républicains, on whose votes the government camp depends, didn’t appreciate that much. Party leader Ciotti: “In the debate about long professional careers, our clear demand is that those who started working between the ages of 16 and 21 shouldn’t feel this reform particularly hard. Whoever works the longest should pay in the longest? That would be unfair.”

43 years of contributions maximum

Here the government camp rowed back. 43 years of contributions maximum – the new mantra. But what about the women who are supposed to benefit from more minimum pensions and better credit for child-rearing periods? Now the pension insurance itself calculates: After the reform, women who were born in 1972 work nine months longer, men of the same year only five months longer.

Recently, women in particular, like the young teacher Juliette, protested: “There is already so much wage injustice for women in France, if we are still collecting injustices in pensions, then I’m beside myself and very angry, and that’s why I’m demonstrating.”

Many seniors are also concerned

Many seniors also fear the reform. The job market often doesn’t even offer them the chance to work longer. This is confirmed by Monika Queisser, who heads the social policy department at the OECD in Paris. The age at which people leave the labor market in the long term is low in France. The age in France is just over 60 years. And as a mirror image, you can also see that the labor market participation of older workers is relatively low, says Queisser. “In the age group 60 to 64 we have only 33 percent labor market participation in France, while the OECD average – 53 percent – is higher.”

Government uses a legislative trick

The government wants to pack the reform into a supplementary law on social security. It’s a big gamble, because not all of her points fit with it in terms of content. But the legislative trick automatically activates Article 47.1. That limits the time for debate. Not unimportant with 20,000 change requests. The draft law can then only remain in the National Assembly for 20 days and in the Upper House, the Senate, for 15 days. After that, representatives of both chambers can arbitrate. But after 50 days the reform has to be through, otherwise the government can enact it.

New protests? Most likely

Then it would be the end of March, and new protests are likely to follow. Although only six out of ten French people will retire at 64 in the future and everyone else will benefit from exceptions. But the reform comes at a bad time for many. The pension funds are now in the billions, food is 13 percent more expensive over the year, electricity has been 15 percent more expensive since February 1st and the motorway tolls have been around 5 percent more expensive – and that just before the winter holidays. And: only one in five people in France still gives work a very important place in their lives. Many are less motivated than before the corona pandemic.

Design student Arthur protests prophylactically and speaks to many people: “My pension? Above all, I want to get something out of my life. It may sound stupid, but that’s how it is. I don’t want to be completely exhausted and sick at 64. And the best years of my life.”

France’s pension reform goes to Parliament

Stefanie Markert, ARD Paris, February 6, 2023 1:32 a.m

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