The measure, one of the French president’s campaign pledges, will introduce a single “universal pension system” in place of the current 42 systems based on multiple professions. Workers’ pensions will be calculated according to the number of “points” accumulated through their career, instead of the current system, which is based on worked trimesters.
From 2025, a €10 contribution to the pensions system will be counted as one point, and once workers reach 62 years old, the number of points earned will be multiplied by €0.55 to calculate their annual pension. One euro paid under this new system, Macron has promised, will “give everyone the same rights” — but voters fear they will merely end up poorer than under the current system.
French people in careers as varied as nurses, lawyers, metro drivers or pilots fear that the reform will erase their specific pension rights. The pensions of RATP employees, for example, are currently calculated according to the salary earned in the last six months of their career, which compensates for the “arduousness” of the work (such as punishingly early starts and long hours), union representative Thierry Babec explained during the strike. Trade unions estimate that the new pensions system will lead to a 30 per cent cut in RATP workers’ pensions. “The strength of this strike shows how much the pensions system is at the heart of our social contract,” Babec said.
In total, workers across 14 high-skilled, self-employed professions went on strike in protest at Macron’s reforms. Under the new system, their independent pension funds would be scrapped and merged into the national system. All fear that the new system wouldn’t account for their “arduousness”: stewards deal with late nights and jet lag; there will be no pension rights for spouses of pilots working in dangerous situations; and all self-employed professionals will see their contributions double to 28 per cent of their earnings. For some, this share is so large that it would force the closure of their business.
Angry French professionals march against Macron’s pension reform
Lawyers, nurses, doctors, airline pilots are among the many professionals striking in Paris to protest the government’s pension reforms. Their different pension schemes total over ten billion euros – and they do not want to see it absorbed by the standardised system the government is proposing.
After last week’s mass public transport strike, on Monday over 700,000 skilled workers from 14 different fields are expected to be absent. It’s the first time professionals, from nurses to airline pilots, will march together under the same banner, “SOS retraites”, to defend their own specific pension plans.
“It’s a hold up,” exclaims Jean-Paul Hamon, the president of the Federation of Doctors in France. “They want to grab what we saved.
“It is not a strike of the rich. We work on average 60 hours per week. The nurses, who have a tough job and earn a low salary, will have to contribute more towards their retirement – only to earn a pension of 900 euros per month. That’s enough to make us very angry.”
• French citizens to work for longer under new pension reform
Hamon says French doctors have collectively increased their contributions since 1999, which enabled them, today, to reach pension funds amounting to seven billion euros.
The government’s reform would not only further reduce the number of French general practitioners, it would also mean less doctors willing to adhere to the social security system (known as “conventionné”), according to Hamon. If doctors don’t do so, it means that social security won’t reimburse their patients.
France’s pension reform
The government’s pension reforms aim to simplify the current system, with a standardised pension plan rather than the current version, which has 42 different schemes.
“We’re going to construct a truly universal system where every euro paid in will provide the same rights for everyone, whether a labourer, a shop owner, a researcher, a farmer, a civil servant, a doctor or an entrepreneur,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a speech on Thursday.
The move to a universal points-based pension system will effectively wipe out the more advantageous pensions for a wide range of professions.
Jean-Paul Delevoye, who is leading the reform project, also proposed making a full pension available from the age of 64. People who retire earlier would have to accept a lower pension: five percent less for someone who stops working at 63, for example.
Unprecedented lawyers’ strike
The Chairperson of the Paris Bar, Christiane Feral-Schuhl, said that it is unprecedented for such a large number of lawyers to mobilise for today’s strike. Half of France’s 700,000 lawyers work in and around Paris.
Like doctors, lawyers fear that their pension fund of around 2 billion euros will disappear under the government’s new system.
Lawyer Xavier Autain, a member of the umbrella SOS Retraite protest group, told RFI that his colleagues contribute some 80 to 90 million euros to the general pension plan for the rest of the population.
“We don’t understand why the government wants to switch us over to a general pension plan. Ours has been in existence since 1954 and we’ve managed it well with contributions which are higher than those set up under the general pension plan,” he says.
Airline pilots feel the same. Yves Deshayes, chairman of the National Trade Union of Airline Pilots, said that they do not wish their contributions to be absorbed by a standardised pension plan.
“We’ve saved up to 5 billion euros. We want these funds to benefit the people who contributed towards it.”
The SOS Retraite march begins at 1 PM Paris time (1100 GMT), from Opéra to Nation.
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