No, the pension reform is not fair for women

“Because of Macron, it’s the fall of pensions, because of Macron, we will be big losers”. Three years ago to the day, feminist collectives at the head of the procession danced and sang to the words of the parody of the Belgian duo of Laurence Heller and Hélène Bérard “because of the boys”. Lpurpose of the event: the highly contested bill establishing the universal pension system, reform finally postponed due to Covid-19 crisis.

This Tuesday, January 10, the day of the presentation of the revised bill, feminists have still not been heard. Despite some favorable announcements, economists, unions and activists denounce a reform that will widen gender inequalities. With all due respect to the government, which never ceased to brag a “just” reform for women. “To say that the pension reform would be just for women is completely indecent”, annoys Christiane Marty, activist and feminist within Attac and member of the board of the Copernic Foundation.

The pension of women, 40% lower than that of men

For this engineer-researcher, the reform does not take into account pension inequalities between women and men. Today, the average direct pension (without reversion) received by women is almost 40% lower than that of men according to the Dres, although this gap has been falling continuously since 2004. Taking into account survivors’ pensions and the increase for children, the average pension for women is a quarter lower than that for men. Inequalities that are primarily explained by wage gaps: women earn 22% less than men according to INSEE. The interrupted careers of women for parental leave also reduce the duration of contributions and consequently their pension.

The discount weighs especially on women

Finally, there is the discount for people who have not contributed long enough. “An additional reduction for incomplete careers, mostly women” judge Christiane Marty. As a reminder, the discount reduces the amount of the basic pension per missing quarter up to the age of 67. In 2019, Jean-Paul Delevoyeformer High Commissioner for Pensions, himself acknowledged in his report that the discount constituted a double penalty for incomplete careers. It therefore weighs more on women since for the 1950 generation, 44% of women retired with an incomplete career, compared to 32% of men, recalls the Dres. Moreover, for the generation of 1950, 19% of women compared to 10% of men are waiting for retirement to reach full pension age.

Yet Elisabeth Borne insisted on Tuesday that by maintaining the age of cancellation of the discount at 67, the government “protects women”. Remarks badly received by the activists. “To say that the reform is fair for women while insisting on maintaining the haircut is really not serious. The discount is a terrible injustice for women who have an incomplete career”, mocks Rachel Silvera, economist, lecturer at the University of Paris-Nanterre, specialist in inequalities at work. She continues: “The discount should be removed so that the project is favorable to women rather than maintaining it at 67”.

Postponement of the legal age penalizes the poorest women

“Each time we push back the required contribution period, it is always less achievable for women”, points out the CGT in a press release. And Fabienne El Khoury, spokesperson for Dare feminism, to abound: “Knowing that women have choppy careers and more part-time, they will have to work longer to earn less”.

The postponement of the legal retirement age to 64 years will especially penalize the most modest and precarious women, more affected by incomplete careers. Senior women are less active than senior men: 37% of women born after 1950 were no longer in employment the year before their retirement, compared to 28% of men. “By extending the starting age, the share of precarious seniors will automatically increase, since in France, being a senior is frowned upon at work, squeaks Rachel Silvera. Women are still the most affected”.

What about the arduous nature of women’s jobs?

In addition, the arduousness of women’s jobs is little taken into account in the current pension system. “We think of the charges associated with male jobs but we forget the hardship of small charges, for cashiers in particular,” laments Christiane Marty. This Tuesday, measures on arduousness were announced, in particular on painful postures, the repeated carrying of heavy loads and exposure to vibrations. “It remains to be seen whether this will concern women’s professions”, points out Rachel Silvera.

Other social justice measures have been announced, such as increasing the minimum pension to 1,200 euros gross per month for new retirees. A measure that only concerns full careers and therefore excludes a good number of women. Rachel Silvera nevertheless recalls that this measure had already been announced during the 2003 reform, known as the “Fillon law”, and never applied.

Make it easier for women to start a long career

Another announcement, the departures in long career of the women will be facilitated by this reform. Women who have benefited from parental leave to raise their children will be able to include up to a maximum of 4 quarters in their calculation. “A measure” for Rachel Silvera who remains cautious because “access to long careers is very complex and a majority of men benefit from it today”.

According to Catherine Cutles, former deputy and ex-president of the delegation for women’s rights in the National Assembly, we should go further. “So that women are not the big losers, strong measures are needed such as establishing, for example, a sharing of points between spouses or taking into account maternity quarters in revaluations”, she explains. The one who is today president of the Association of former deputies is surprised that the subject of the place of women in this reform is not more politically and unionally supported.

“We focused on violence against women but we forget the economic violence which is very strong,” she says. Because a truly feminist reform will have to be accompanied by structural measures on the wage gap between women and men, the revaluation of women’s professions or the employment of seniors. Otherwise, women risk, indeed, to come out the losers of this new pension reform.

No, the pension reform is not fair for women – Challenges