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Why do we need to increase the employment rate of seniors?

PAt a certain age, employees mysteriously disappear from the world of work. With only 36.2% of 60-64 year olds in employment, France is an exception in Europe, where the average is 46.9%. Aware of this weakness and despite the failure of negotiations between social partners on the employment of seniors, Emmanuel Macron is pursuing the objective of reaching a 65% employment rate in this age group by 2030.

“We have significant room for maneuver”, euphemizes the economist Alain Villemeur, director of the university chair “Demographic transitions, economic transitions”, who considers this objective “attainable”. It must be said that the best European students, namely Germany and Sweden, respectively achieve 72% and 77% employment rates among 55-64 year olds, compared to 56.9% in France.

If this gap can be explained by the retirement age, which has long been earlier than our neighbors, and the practice of many French companies which push the oldest towards retirement a few years before the legal age, there is an urgent need to redress the situation. Nothing less than the survival of our social model depends on it, according to several economists!

Up to 200 billion in wealth creation

“Part of the current deficit is linked to the financing of social protection [14,4 % du PIB en 2022 était consacré au financement des retraites, NDLR]. With the aging of the population, it is obvious that these deficits will worsen. Keeping seniors employed is a way of safeguarding the French social model of the welfare state,” believes economist Alain Villemeur. “We calculated that if we had 7% to 8% more hours worked, we would have no problem of major imbalance in terms of public finances,” adds Jean-Hervé Lorenzi, economist and also holder of the chair “Demographic transitions, economic transitions”.

“A employed senior is a double benefit for the State since he contributes to social protection and we do not pay him a pension,” recalls Alain Villemeur. He considers that if in 20 years we managed to reach the employment rate of German seniors (72%) and that of 15-24 year olds (currently at 33% compared to 50% in Germany), this would represent 2 million people in work. in addition. “It’s 8 points of GDP and 200 billion in additional wealth creation, it’s still massive,” he calculates. READ ALSO Employment of seniors: Bruno Le Maire in flagrante delicto of “youthism”

According to Alain Villemeur, between 30% and 40% of workers over the age of sixty feel worn out by their career, which they often started early, and do not imagine being able to continue. The others, 60% to 70% of seniors, therefore, “do not leave for health reasons and could very well consider continuing in their job,” estimates the economist. It remains to be seen whether they want it and whether companies are ready to welcome them.

An “exploration leave”

“It’s a very deep subject: all companies consider that from the age of 55 we are less qualified and, on the other hand, people want to leave” because we don’t offer them a perspective, explains Jean-Hervé Lorenzi. Unsuitable for new technologies, too expensive, difficult to manage… Preconceived ideas about seniors die hard. “Companies must make an effort to ensure that seniors are more satisfied with their working conditions by offering, for example, flexible working hours or gradual retirement,” explains Alain Villemeur.

They also propose the establishment of an “exploration leave” at age 50 which could last up to a month. This period of reflection would allow seniors to think about the rest of their career – “which could still last around fifteen years”, insists Jean-Hervé Lorenzi – and in particular about training possibilities.

Arranging the end of seniors’ careers was the whole issue of the negotiations between the unions and the employers’ representatives. During the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, after a final round of 48 hours of negotiations, the social partners nevertheless failed to reach an agreement.

They still have until Monday to sign the amendment to the agreement negotiated in the fall. “If there were to be no agreement on unemployment insurance, we would do what we call a deficiency decree, that is to say we would take back (control) because, by definition, it is necessary that at 1er July we have an element on unemployment insurance,” warned the Minister of Labor, Catherine Vautrin, on Wednesday. This recovery would come at a critical moment when Gabriel Attal plans to further tighten the rules of unemployment insurance by reducing the duration of compensation in particular.

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