EXCLUSIVE SURVEY – Employment of seniors: the French skeptical about the virtuous effect of pension reform

Posted Dec 1 2022 at 17:00Updated 2 Dec. 2022 at 7:14 am

If the government still had doubts about the feeling of mistrust of public opinion in the face of the prospect of raising the legal retirement age, an Elabe poll for “Les Echos”, Radio Classique and the Institut Montaigne, comes to confirm it. It shows that the vast majority of French people reject one of the arguments put forward by the executive in the context of the forthcoming reform, namely the expected beneficial effects of the passage from 62 years to 64 years or more on the percentage of seniors at work.

Specifically, three out of four French people questioned believe that pushing back the legal age will not improve the employment rate of seniors, including 38% not at all and 37% not really. Emmanuel Macron’s supporters are not left out: only 40% of those who voted for him in the first round of the presidential election believe in it.

Lots of education

For the president of Elabe, Bernard Sananès, this shows that “the argument put forward to defend the reform does not work”. “It will take a lot of pedagogy because the French do not make the link directly. On the contrary, they think that raising the legal age will put more seniors out of work, ”he analyzes.

As a reminder, the employment rate of 55-64 year olds was on average 56% in 2021, compared to 67.2% for the 15-64 age group, also far behind the best OECD countries (it is nearly 72% in Germany, for example). The situation has nevertheless improved under the effect of the various reforms, starting with that of Edouard Balladur in 1993, but above all because of favorable demographic or social changes (generations born after 1945, higher education, living conditions, work), as Hippolyte d’Albis, professor at the Paris School of Economics, reminds us.

No quick fix

If not by the legal age, how to further improve the situation of seniors on the labor market? For the French, there is not one but several solutions, none really standing out. Slightly more than four out of ten believe that this involves financial incentives, a hiring bonus or a reduction in social security contributions. The same proportion considers that it is necessary to lower the legal retirement age, or even financially sanction companies that lay off employees over 50 years of age. So many solutions tried in the past but without tangible results.

The organization of working time or the accumulation of retirement employment meet with a slightly lower rate of consent, while training, senior indexes in companies or, above all, reduction in the duration of unemployment compensation close the ban. “The French do not believe in a miracle solution that would be enough to reverse things. Increasing the employment rate of seniors will take time”, continues Bernard Sananès.

Not that the qualities of the seniors are in doubt, on the contrary. Seven out of ten French people praise their expertise as the main asset for a recruiter, with a view to passing it on to a young person in particular. Except that in their eyes, at least for more or less one in two respondents, employers consider that the over 50s are less comfortable with digital, suffer from more health problems or report complaints higher wages.

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