Pensions: these major issues that remain to be arbitrated

After the failure of the repeal attempt, nothing stands in the way of the entry into force of the pension reform from September

Pensions: these major issues that remain to be arbitrated

After the failure of the repeal attempt, nothing stands in the way of the entry into force of the pension reform from September. But the subject is not closed, because major issues still remain to be arbitrated for private sector employees, civil servants and women.

Agirc-Arrco: a jackpot to share

Agirc-Arrco, a supplementary scheme for private sector employees, which pays more than 87 billion euros in pensions each year to 13 million retirees, even generates large surpluses: 2.6 billion in 2021, more than 5 billion in 2022. Its accounts should remain permanently in the green, according to government forecasts, which in January forecast a surplus of 1.7 billion for Agirc-Arrco this year and up to 6 billion in 2030, thanks to the raising the legal age to 64.

A windfall that this regime, managed by the social partners, does not really need, since its abundant financial reserves are already sufficient to guarantee its "golden rule" - to have six months in advance over a horizon of 15 years. By serendipity of the calendar, the last framework agreement concluded in 2019 expires this fall. The negotiation, which was to begin before the summer, could be postponed until the start of the school year, according to several sources contacted by Agence France-Presse.

With such leeway, the unions should easily obtain the removal of the "bonus-malus" supposed to encourage employees to leave later - but which has not had the desired effect. The question of an increase in pensions as well as that of a reduction in contributions will undoubtedly also be put on the table.

All the lights are red for the Fund of Territorial and Hospital Agents. The CNRACL is accumulating losses (4.5 billion euros in three years) and its deficit is expected to widen "sharply" this year, to 2.8 billion according to the Social Security Accounts Commission. The result of a demographic trap: the number of retirees (1.3 million) is increasing by more than 3% per year, while that of contributors (2.2 million) has stagnated for a decade.

And the worst is to come, because the losses "continue to increase in the medium term" despite the pension reform, according to the government, which has nevertheless planned an increase in contributions from next year for this plan. An increase "largely insufficient to cover (that) of the deficit", which will therefore continue to increase "to reach 6.6 billion in 2030", underlines the Court of Auditors, worried about a situation "more and more worrying".

No solution emerges for the moment. Raising the contribution rate further or increasing wages would weigh on the finances of communities and hospitals - and therefore of the Health Insurance. A debt takeover (as during the Covid) would lighten the burden but would not solve the root of the problem.

Conscious of walking on eggshells, the government has not put everything in the basket of its reform. "Family rights" and survivors' pensions were thus to be the subject of specific work, with the 2024 Social Security budget in sight, which will be presented in September.

But for several months, the executive has remained silent on these subjects with enormous budgetary stakes (20 billion euros for the first, 37 billion for the second) and policies, these devices mainly benefiting women. A public far from being acquired, after a disputed reform in particular for its lack of fairness towards women, who will have to lengthen their career more than men – even if this will slightly reduce the pension gap.

At the risk of reopening Pandora's box, the government has put forward a first track: transform the quarters granted to mothers into a hard and stumbling "bonus" from the first child. This idea was approved by the Court of Auditors, on the condition that it be implemented "at constant cost". A method that would necessarily make winners and losers.