Pensions and protest

I’ve just found two very useful looking websites, one about pensions, the issue at the core of recent protests in France, and one seeking to garner financial support for strikers and with a wealth of information about actions around the country. You can see the latter here. Despite or perhaps because of the rather technical nature of what it is discussing, the pensions one is well worth a look. The government line on the pensions issue was that the French were only being asked to accept a postponement of retirement from 60 to 62 that would still leave them enormously privileged compared to other Europeans. This was an enormous over-simplification of what was at stake. The pensions website helps give a sense of the complexity of the issues:  to get a full pension within the French system people need to have built up 41 years of contributions; somebody who started work at 18 and worked uninterruptedly would have been able to collect their full pension at 60. But given that most people stay on in education longer, that young people increasingly struggle to move into stable employment and that older people struggle to keep it (the older worker being one of the main victims of industrial restructuring), a full pension at 60 is more of a convenient mythology than a reality. For the site, see here. The site underscores the importance of what might call ‘counter-information’ in a French context. The asymmetry between the information at the disposal of elites and that available to the general citizen acts as an effective barrier to public participation in decision taking. The generation and dissemination of counter-information therefore becomes a key weapon in the armoury of those challenging the power of elites. We see this at work here in the case of pensions. But it is something that has already been in evidence in struggles over world trade agreements and the European constitution, issues deemed too technical for widespread debate. It again underscores the important role played by intellectuals as generators of counter-expertise in the French context. In case all this seems very dry, the pensions site is also a great place to go if you want to study some of the slogans used by protesters in the recent wave of demonstrations: Les jeunes au boulot, les vieux au bistro! (‘young people to work: old people to the bistrot!’), Métro, boulot, caveau (‘Metro, work, tomb’ – a reworking of the classic Métro, boulot, dodo (‘Metro, work, sleep’)).

This entry was posted in Protest and mobilisation, The crisis and the economy, The politics of crisis. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pensions and protest

  1. Kirk says:

    Oh my… What over-simplification.

    First, the lack of concrete information is the fault of the media, who don’t spend the time researching and explaining. I’m an immigrant who has been in France for 25 years, and when this whole thing started, I didn’t know that the “age légal de la retraite” was the _early_ retirement age, not the normal retirement age. In fact, it took months before the TV news started pointing that out. You can see many articles in non-French press that thing the 60/62 age is the normal retirement age.

    But in the page you linked to, I see this:

    ” les 10 milliards d’euros versés chaque année dans les systèmes d’épargne retraite en capitalisation devraient dorénavant être versées pour la répartition”

    If I understand, they want to take my savings away from me? They want to tell me that any money that I put aside to have a better retirement shouldn’t belong to me? You see, I’m a “travailleur independant”, and my retirement will be a pittance if I don’t save; this is one point that’s not been discussed, btw. There are millions of people like me – freelancers who don’t have the same system. We have a “point-based” system, where you get points for the period you contribute, and those points are multiplied by a cofficient.

    Then they talk about taxing capital gains. This is all well and good, except capital gains are taxed already. There’s a (roughly) 12% bunch of taxes, such as the CSG and related taxes. Then there’s capital gains tax (for those that are technically capital gains), and income tax (for interest income). This would hit the middle class hardest; you can’t have a sliding scale for capital gains.

    ” incitations au retour à 35 heures et à la semaine de 4 jours ”

    Yes, utopia. We saw how that worked out…

    What I don’t get is why no one proposes a simple solution: increase the level at which you pay payroll taxes. There is a limit above which you don’t pay any more than a pittance (plafond de la securité sociale: some figures here http://www.net-iris.fr/indices-taux/4-cotisations-sociales-taux-et-assiettes-des-charges.php). 6.65% up to that ceiling, and only .10% above. Is that not ridiculous? It seems to me that this is something that is very easy to argue for. Yet why don’t the unions go in that direction? What are they afraid of? Either increase the ceiling, or increase the amount paid above that ceiling. (This ceiling affects a number of payroll taxes, and could be a solution to problems funding health care as well.) Instead, they stick with their usual demagogy, trying to nationalize individuals’ savings, and hoping for a utopia of a 4-day work week…

  2. L’article qui explique précisément les 2 conditions à remplir s’intitule « Il faut répéter encore et partout que la retraite à 60 ans n’a jamais existé ». il est à lire à l’adresses http://www.retraites-enjeux-debats.org/spip.php?article425

    Pour une vue d’ensemble, je vous recommande de consulter le diaporama « Pour une Comprendre notre système de retraites, ses évolutions et les principaux en enjeux » à l’adresse http://www.retraites-enjeux-debats.org/spip.php?rubrique8

    andré martin – auteur de l’article et animateur du site

    Bravo aux 2 jeunes anglais qui ont créé le site “la France et la crise” … très utile pour combattre la désinformation.

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