Pensions : “Let’s not confuse equality with uniformity”

Point-of-view. In his analysis of pension reform published on his blog, former Secretary of State for the Budget Christian Eckert fears ulterior motives, such as the use of individual solutions such as private insurance. And put forward some proposals.

By Christian Eckert

Christian Eckert, former Secretary of State for the Budget (DR)

Everything has been said about the Government’s clumsiness and its way of imposing its pension reform. There’s no need to add to that. My purpose today – and which only concerns me – is above all modest in its aim to give a personal analysis, to formulate some opinions and to dare to make some proposals… Being critical does not exclude either the possibility or the will to be useful.
The Government cannot easily make people believe that our pension systems are scheduled to collapse. First of all, because it is not true, as I wrote in September. My post has inspired other analysts and can be usefully reviewed here. Secondly, because the French are far from being stupid: we cannot seriously tell them that the new system does not reduce pensions but makes it possible to find a better balance without increasing contributions.

Do not confuse equity with consistency

The universalization and the end of special regimes is therefore its main argument. It works quite well, for the simple-minded who confuse fairness and uniformity. As if seeking equality led to ignoring the differences, diversity and heterogeneity of human situations. As if collective agreements had arisen from nothing and were not the result of a balance resulting from social dialogue.

I fear that other backward thinking also exists in some governmental minds: by instilling the idea that the pension system is neither fair nor sustainable, individual solutions of the private insurance type could naturally be presented as the only recourse… However, the Government has not challenged the principle of pay-as-you-go retirement. Either…

He repeats in a loop that one euro contributed will give everyone the same rights. It’s attractive, it sounds simple, but it’s off the mark: instead of counting contribution quarters to open up entitlements, the government is proposing to count points that are proportional (or almost proportional) to the salary received. There is nothing to resolve the injustices that everyone recognizes: career breaks for women or the unemployed, taking into account the hardship of the trades, the part-time work often suffered, the difference in life expectancy depending on the trades… The current system allocates additional terms to take into account these particular cases… The government is not clearly proposing to allocate additional points based on these particular situations.


The focus is on the value of the point to determine the level of the pension. Instead, we should try to eliminate the very many inequalities by playing on the number of points awarded. It would therefore be wiser to rework this subject with a real global debate. We can “at the same time” move forward on some subjects that could be agreed upon, such as

Set a decent minimum level of pensions for full careers. This is a proposal in the High Commissioner’s report.
Provide for an identical reversion system for all, which does not reduce current rights for anyone (neither in level nor in age of attribution).
Permanently align the revaluation of pensions with criteria that preserve purchasing power (inflation, wages, growth).
Work on the consideration of bonuses or salary levels (for teachers for example). And not on a corner of the table.

Dealing with all subjects simultaneously in an anxious atmosphere by imposing a Copernican reform is certainly not the solution. When a subject is complex (this one is particularly so), it is better to look for what brings people together than to point out what divides them.