composite portrait of 65-year-old French people

Thirty months after the failure of the previous pension reform, suspended in March 2020 due to Covid before being definitively buried, a new round of consultation begins this Wednesday, October 5 at the Ministry of Labor. Minister Olivier Dussopt must indeed present to employers and unions “the timetable, method and objectives of the reform”.

Pension reform: a bill “before the end of winter”

Monday evening, the unions said they were ready to participate in a consultation provided that it was “fair and transparent”. But they draw a red line: if they can work on the arduousness or the employment of seniors, there is no question of evoking a new age measurement.

“On the legal age, the contribution period, we will not be presentinsisted Monday evening the deputy secretary general of Unsa Dominique Corona. We will prepare the response if necessary. » However, the gradual postponement of the legal age to 65 is precisely at the heart of the reform announced last week by the government. This means that the dialogue is likely to run out quite quickly.

Health, life expectancy, professional life, standard of living, The cross drew the composite portrait of the French aged 65.

► What health check?

65 years old is one of the three “key” ages chosen by the Ministry of Health and Prevention to offer French women and men a free medical consultation. Rightly so, according to Doctor Bertrand Fougère, professor of geriatrics and gerontology at the University Hospital of Tours. “In addition to being a period of transition in professional and personal life, it is a pivotal age in terms of health. This is the moment when the first pathologies arrive, the first comorbidities, the first deaths of friends of the same age…”

The least we can say is that the statistics are not very encouraging. In France, half of cancer cases occur after the age of 65. The prevalence of chronic diseases is also increasing. First chronic pathology in France, arterial hypertension affects about 65% of elderly people of this age and beyond. 65 is also the average age of people with diabetes in France, according to Public Health France. “And 80% of people who have heart failure are over 65,” adds Bertrand Fougère.

As for strokes, they affect people over 65 in three out of four cases. Don’t throw any more! “Be careful, we are talking about 65 years and over, which means that many of these people are much older when their problem occurs”, insists the doctor.

Still, turning 65 – again, on average – marks the appearance of the first “incapacity”. “This does not mean that you are in a wheelchair, but that you may start to need help with certain acts of daily living: put on your shoes, do your tax return on the Internet…”, explains Bertrand Fougère.

However, the picture is not as bleak as it seems. “Less than 10% of 65-74 are losing their autonomy”, reassure the doctor. And the profiles, at this age, are still very heterogeneous. “At 65, some people, even retirees, continue to work by creating their self-employed status. Others travel, do voluntary work, take care of their grandchildren… It is later that things get complicated, from the age of 75 and beyond, when the loss of autonomy reaches 30%”, says the specialist.

► What life expectancy?

These health issues affect life expectancy. INSEE calculates the life expectancy of French people at age 65, which is 23.2 years for women and 19.1 years for men. Figures that have stagnated since 2014, after rising sharply since the 1990s.

But if we look at life expectancy without disability, the figures are much worse: 12.1 years for women and 10.6 years for men. Also, if France is at the top of the countries of the European Union for life expectancy at 65, it only appears in seventh position for that without disability for women, and in ninth position for men. However, the numbers are improving: “Between 2008 and 2020, life expectancy without disability at age 65 has grown faster than life expectancy”, notes INSEE.

It is the social disparities that play the most on the time remaining to live beyond 65 years. “The socio-economic level remains one of the main factors of mortality, emphasizes Doctor Bertrand Fougère. To put it bluntly, you are more likely to die at age 65 because you are poor than because you have diabetes or hypertension. »

In 2021, the daily Release had published a graph highlighting that 30% of the poorest had already died at the age of 65, compared to less than 10% of the richest. “These figures should be taken with caution, warns Ulysse Lojkine, doctoral student in philosophy and economics at the Paris School of Economics. They focus on the poorest 5%, who are more concerned with social minima than with retirement. »

To verify the inequalities around retirement, the researcher has therefore tried to broaden the spectrum, focusing on the risk of mortality around the retirement age of the poorest 40% and in particular of men, for whom it identifies a strong inequality.

“If, on average, the duration of retirement in France is twenty years, we see that, for these poor men, it will only be sixteen and a half years, he notes. And even among them, there are strong disparities: 10% will not reach retirement age, 20% will only have five years of retirement, and 30%, less than ten years. » Which means that a quarter of the poorest men cannot expect to retire for more than ten years, thus remaining only a short time in the statistics for those over 65…

“For them, two or three more years before retiring, or two or three years less of retirement, is considerable, comments Ulysses Lojkin. And we are not talking about a marginal phenomenon, but about millions of men! » Especially since the early retirement schemes for long careers or difficult work are very far from concerning the whole of this population, which is bound to continue to wear itself out at work.

► Who is still working?

At 65, 10% of French people are still working, a proportion that has been on the rise for ten years, due to successive reforms affecting the pension system. Compared with retirees of the same age, these French people at work are more often men and have more qualifications. They are also in better health: 12% of inactive people say they are in poor health, compared to 4% of active people aged 65 to 74.

Still comparing with the inactive of the same age, the liberal professions as well as farmers, craftsmen and shopkeepers are over-represented there. A phenomenon that can be explained both by a “lack of attractiveness of the level of the pension as well as the difficulty of finding a buyer”, notes INSEE.

Employed people between the ages of 65 and 74 live more often than retirees as a couple with children (9% against 5%). Family configuration plays a particular role in the work of women between 65 and 74: nearly half of working women at these ages are alone or head of a single-parent family, compared to just over a third when they are inactive.

INSEE identifies four typical profiles among the battalion of people still in employment in this age bracket: blue-collar employees, most often employed part-time, with a high proportion of women, who live alone and work in the services (41% of people aged 65 to 74 in employment); liberal professions or senior civil servants, living as a couple in large cities, working full-time or part-time (34%); craftsmen or entrepreneurs, with an intermediate degree, who live in small towns and often work full time (18%); and finally, the specific group of farmers (7%).

Are the French ready to follow suit? Not really, although minds change. The proportion of non-retired people not wishing to retire until age 65 or later has stabilized at around 13%, according to the opinion barometer carried out each year by the Social Ministries Research Department (the DREES ). It’s not much, but it’s still double than in 2000.

Finally, people aged 65 and over who are currently retired are not inactive, as evidenced by the importance of volunteering in this age group. It is among those aged 65 and over that the rate of involvement in associations is the highest, at 31%. A proportion which has however fallen since 2016, when it was displayed at 35%.

France Bénévolat sees several reasons for this: the gradual increase in the actual retirement age, growing difficulties at the end of “which cause the need to breathe” and the need to dedicate oneself to one’s family, especially to parents who are living longer and longer.

► What is their standard of living?

At 65, household income is currently lower than at 45, since at this age 90% of French people are already retired, and therefore receive incomes lower than their former salary. However, this drop in income is partly offset by the fact that people in their sixties have more wealth than the rest of the population, which can bring them additional income.

In addition to retirement benefits, the income of 65-year-olds is thus made up of 18% of income from their assets (compared to 9.5% for the population as a whole) and only 2% of social benefits (compared to 5.7% on average).

Moreover, at this age, most households no longer have dependent children, which leads to an increase in their standard of living. In 2019, the latter – defined by INSEE as household income divided by consumption unit (1) in the household – stood at €23,220 per year for 65-year-olds (median value), compared to €22,040 for the whole population.

If we add to this the advantage in terms of living of owning one’s home (75% of 65-year-olds are homeowners, with more than 90% having finished repaying their loan), the median standard of living of retirees is 9.5% higher than the median standard of living of the rest of the population.

What a priori continue to live as when we were active. Although the latest statistical surveys are a bit dated, they all show that over the past two decades the consumption gap between working people and retirees has continued to narrow, to be practically equivalent today.


At what age do we retire?

The legal minimum retirement age is now set at 62 years for private sector employees.

To leave with a full retirement, employees must nevertheless have also contributed for a certain number of quarters: from 167 (41 years and 3 months), for those born in 1958, to 172 (43 years), for those born after 1973. Be that as it may, the departure at full rate is acquired automatically at age 67.

Beneficiaries of special regimes can leave at the full rate well before: 40 years for the dancers of the Paris Opera, 43 years for certain soldiers…

Under certain conditions, those who started working before the age of 20 can leave at the age of 58 or 60.

The effective retirement age is currently 63.3 years for private sector employees (62.3 years for all schemes) and will approach 64 years by the end of the 2030s.

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