Employment of seniors, key to pension reform

Despite the crisis, employment is holding up. Stable in the third quarter of 2022, unemployment is still falling among seniors (–0.7%), even if, over one year, the decrease remains greater among young people (–16.1%) than among older people. 50 years (–9%).

But these figures cannot sum up the question of the employment of seniors. They are still the most affected by long-term unemployment (over a year). The question mainly concerns people over 55. “We have talked a lot about the peak of breaches of employment contract at age 59, three years before retirement age”we recognize at the Ministry of Labor, where the consultation with the social partners on the pension reform is held – which is precisely, at the moment, on the employment of seniors.

Three years is precisely the maximum duration of compensation by Pôle emploi beyond the age of 55 (instead of two years before this age). The people concerned are no longer exempted from looking for a job, but they benefit from few offers and find themselves in fact unable to find a job.

Recent news is full of examples of these “pre-retirement Pôle emploi” who do not say their name. In 2021, 1,200 TotalEnergies employees left as part of a collective contractual termination (RCC): a thousand were over 59 years old. The same year, at Airbus, there were 2,100 departures, including 1,500 under “age measures”. At Michelin, a plan for 2,300 departures is underway, with two-thirds of the people concerned approaching retirement age.

Hardship and professional wear and tear

“The message is ‘Take a little money, leave the box, and don’t worry: Pôle emploi won’t bother you to find a job'”, was indignant recently the general secretary of the CGT, Philippe Martinez. Himself, at the end of his mandate in March, will return to Renault, his employer. And he has already received a glossy brochure explaining “The ten steps to leave the company”… which he forwarded to the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Economy.

“Everything is done so that we push out seniors before they turn 65”, recognizes Éric Chevée, vice-president of the Confederation of small and medium-sized enterprises (CPME). He cites the example of the deduction of up to 50% of the end-of-career allowance for the benefit of the National Old Age Insurance Fund (Cnav), in the case of a retirement from the age of 65. “There is every interest in having an employee retire before”he regrets.

To encourage companies to keep seniors, the social partners are thinking about incentive measures. The CPME pleads for a reduction in social security contributions from a certain age. The Institut Montaigne is formulating a comparable proposal – reducing contributions for those under 30 and over 55 and increasing those for 30-55 year olds. On the union side, the effect of the measure is put into perspective, recalling that wages up to 1.6 smic are already exempt from contributions.

For the unions, it is first of all on the side of hardship and professional wear and tear that we must now look at. “For us, this is the priority”, confides Yvan Ricordeau, in charge of the pension file at the CFDT. Effective since 2016, the professional prevention account (C2P), which allows you to accumulate points to leave earlier or benefit from part-time work, is little used. “Of the 1.8 million employees who opened rights, only 12,000 used it, 80% for early departure”we recognize at the Ministry of Labor.

Promoting job-retirement accumulation

To coax the unions in the between-two-rounds of the presidential election, Emmanuel Macron had raised the idea of ​​reintroducing certain criteria of arduousness, removed in 2017; the idea no longer seems on the table, even if the ministry mentions “adjustments” possible. “Some have sketched out ways to identify trades or exposed work positions, but it’s very technical and we have to continue the work”explains the ministry, while unions are also pleading for consideration of the“psychological wear and tear”.

Another idea on the table: a “right to conversion” that Force Ouvrière imagines financed by the surpluses of the industrial accidents-occupational diseases branch. It could also be part of the personal training account (CPF), uncapped for seniors wanting long training as part of a retraining.

“We want to strengthen the training of seniors and have asked for an obligation of social dialogue in companies on the quality of employment for seniors”, explains Yvan Ricordeau. the age of 45, at which time a medical examination is scheduled, could also be the occasion for an in-depth interview on the professional future.

In the consultation, it is also a question of favoring formulas of accumulation of employment and retirement or progressive retirement. The crucial question remains that of maintaining wages and pension contributions so that, unlike Germany, future retirees do not lose purchasing power. Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt spoke of a “salary insurance” for job seekers returning to a less well paid position.

“For the moment, the discussions are taking place in a good atmosphere”

For its part, the “Demographic Transitions, Economic Transitions” (TDTE) chair, led by the economist Jean-Hervé Lorenzi, proposes to increase to 2.5% per quarter – or 10% per additional year – the pension premium of those who would choose to stay beyond the legal retirement age.

Coupled with other incentive measures, the project would be able to increase the employment rate of seniors by 10 points, according to the TDTE chair, thus generating 2 points of additional GDP, i.e. 50 billion euros in economic benefits and savings of 35 billion euros for the pension system: exactly the dreaded deficit in 2032.

The idea is therefore widely taken up by the reformist unions, which have regularly cited it during consultation sessions. They hope indeed that, if the increase in the employment rate of seniors makes it possible to sufficiently rebalance the pension system, it will no longer be necessary to touch the retirement age. “For the moment, the discussions are taking place in a good atmosphere, reports a union official. Our arguments are well received. It remains to be seen whether we will be listened to. »


Seniors and employment

The average age of leaving the labor market is 62.3 years in France. It is the lowest in the European Union.

The employment rate for 55-64 year olds was 56% in 2021 (59% for the whole of the EU). It was 33% for 60-64 year olds (more than 60% in Sweden or Germany).

The unemployment rate for people over 55 is 6%, figure which does not take into account seniors compensated by Unédic but not actively looking for a job.

The long-term unemployment rate for this same category is 2.7% (2.3% for the whole population).

Return to work rate after two years of unemployment is 44% for the over 55s and 33% for the over 59s (70% for the population as a whole).


Unemployment is stable in the third quarter

After the sharp fall at the start of the year, the number of unemployed in France stabilized in the third quarter. According to figures published on Wednesday, October 26, Pôle emploi lists 3,164,200 registered unemployed, a figure almost stable compared to the previous quarter (-1,700). Over one year, the fall in the number of unemployed in category A reached 10.9% (-388,800). Including reduced activity (categories B and C), the number of job seekers was also stable in the third quarter (and down 7.1% year-on-year) at 5,435,100.

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