Raising the retirement age again? The idea is making its way into the presidential debate. Valérie Pécresse thus pleads for “go very gradually until age 65”, while Emmanuel Macron would imagine a transition to 64 years. The stated goal is to find budgetary leeway to deal with the sharp increase in public debt due to the health crisis and the “whatever it takes”.

An unstoppable accounting logic

“The CFDT, supported by all the unions, wanted the Pensions Orientation Council (HORN) seizes the subject in order to clearly study the consequences of such a passage on the whole economy”, explains Frédéric Sève, pension specialist for the first private sector union. Hence the meeting, this Thursday morning, January 27, of this consultation body which will have on its table some fifteen studies reviewing almost all the effects of a decline in the legal minimum age for asserting its pension rights.

→ ANALYSIS. Pensions: the “great uncertainty” of the OECD in the face of the “opacity” of the French system

Representing 14% of GDP, retirement spending is a ready-made target, with an unstoppable accounting logic: by retiring later, we earn the contributions of those who work longer, while saving on pensions than they are not paid… The COR had thus calculated that the passage from 60 to 62 years voted in 2010 has saved 14 billion euros (0.65 point of GDP) in 2020, even if this effect will tend to shrink over time (9 billion in 2040).

Plus 4.9 billion in additional social spending

This is without taking into account the transfers that the age measure operates on the other social systems. On unemployment, a study by Dares, the statistical service of the Ministry of Labor, notes that if the employment rate of seniors (the proportion of those who work in the population of working age) increases under the effect of a measure of age (+14 points), their unemployment rate also increases (+13 points), as well as their disability (+7 points). In total, raising the retirement age could lead, according to DARES, to 84,000 additional unemployed people, ie an additional expense of 1.3 billion euros for Unédic per year.

→ READ. Pensions: spending on a “controlled trajectory”, despite the health crisis

Added to this are the social minima paid longer to their beneficiaries – the latter having to liquidate their retirement later –, estimated at 830 million euros by the DREES, the statistical service of the Ministry of Health and Solidarity. The same goes for expenses related to disability (1.8 billion) or daily allowances (970 million). All of these additional expenses for the other social schemes would therefore amount to 4.9 billion euros.

Positive and negative effects tend to cancel each other out

“But we also wanted to see the impact of raising the retirement age on the whole economy”, insists Frédéric Sève, for the CFDT. On the COR office, two studies clash here: one from the Directorate General of the Treasury and another from the OFCE. Very dense, that of the OFCE shows that the positive and negative effects of postponing the retirement age tend to cancel each other out.

Admittedly, the accounting savings are there initially, but the increase in the number of people of working age is likely to cause an increase in short-term unemployment and a fall in wages and, therefore, a fall in revenue linked to social contributions or VAT estimated at 0.4 point of GDP after ten years. Finally, according to the OFCE, raising the retirement age would only reduce the burden of pensions on public finances by 0.1 point of GDP over the next ten years.

An increase in the CSG would be more effective

The general management of the Treasury wants to be more optimistic, estimating the gain at 0.9 point of GDP at the end of the same period. “This is a purely accounting scenario, warns Frédéric Sève. Its scenario, taking into account the macroeconomic effects, expects a gain of only 0.1 point over five years and 0.4 point over ten years! »

For him, it is therefore not on the side of a postponement of the retirement age that we should look to gain budgetary leeway. According to the OFCE, increasing the CSG to finance pensions would reduce their weight on public finances by 0.9 points while preserving the retirement age.

→ ANALYSIS. “Neither employed nor retired”: the uncomfortable in-between of 1.4 million seniors

For the CFDT, it would also be preferable to improve employment beyond the age of 50, for example by working on hardship to reduce cases of disability, or by preserving the employment of seniors rather than directing them towards unemployment. As summarized by Frédéric Sève: “It is better to make everyone work than to make those who are already working more work”.

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