France’s pension reforms ‘not enough’ to help social security deficit

Emmanuel Macron justified his reforms by saying they were needed to cut the deficit and pay for pensions in the future

The independent Cour des comptes is the supreme body for auditing the use of public funds in France
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Controversial pension reforms in France will not be enough to cover the ‘hole’ in the social security deficit, the court of public accounts has said.

President of the Cour des comptes, Pierre Moscovici, said “from 2024, the deficit will get worse again”, and has called for “vigorous reforms” in spending in the country, especially in the healthcare sector.

This includes greater checks on healthcare professional expenses, better and more systematic investigations into suspected or possible fraud, and better management of sectors such as foreign pensions.

In a new report published on Wednesday (May 24), the Cour des comptes said while the social security deficit will be brought down from a high of €40billion in 2020 to around €8billion by the end of 2023, the “hole” will still not be filled.

The report said: “From 2024, the deficit will worsen again, due to the worsening of the balance in the pension sector and the ageing population, and the pension reforms will not allow us to catch up on quickly.”

“If we do not act, we will not have any margin of manoeuvre to invest,” said Mr Moscovici at a press conference to announce the report.

€36billion of debt

The court found that in the next three years, around €36billion of extra debt is expected, and it could be even higher if the government’s “optimistic” predictions about growth and employment do not come to pass.

The situation could worsen further, it said, given that spending on health is also set to increase at a lower rate than inflation, which has never happened in recent years.

The court recommended that “vigorous reforms are required”. They added to their recent suggestions on reform for the medical imaging and radiotherapy sectors, recommending that the Samu (France’s emergency services) be reorganised to bring call centres closer together and to enable ambulances to be called without a doctor.

France’s Minister for Public Accounts, Gabriel Attal, is set to unveil a plan to tackle social security fraud soon, not long after presenting a plan against fiscal fraud.

What is the Cour des comptes?

The Cour des comptes is the supreme body for auditing the use of public funds in France. It is independent of the government and parliament.

It works to ensure that public funds are well spent and to keep the public informed about state spending.

Pension controversy

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, repeatedly justified his controversial pension reforms by saying that they were needed to reduce the deficit and help the state to pay for pensions in years to come.

However, the reforms were (and continue to be) unpopular among many sectors of society. They prompted continued national strikes and transport worker strikes both before and after the reforms were passed.

Read more: ‘Pension age rise in France is unnecessary and will worsen inequality’

They were particularly controversial due to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s use of article 49.3 to force the reform through without a vote in parliament.

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