Recent Reforms, Their Distributional Effects and Political Dynamics
Edited By David Natali
This book – based on a research project carried out by the Observatoire Social Européen asbl, with the financial support of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) – looks at the most recent developments in pension policy and politics in Europe and advances our understanding of the field in three respects: firstly, it contributes to improve our knowledge of the most recent reform wave passed in the wake of the recent economic and financial crisis; secondly, it assesses the long-term financial and social sustainability of pensions; thirdly, it analyses the politics of pensions and the way policymakers and stakeholders interact in order to address the major challenges to pensions.
The evidence proposed by six country chapters (about Italy, France, Finland, Poland, the Netherlands and UK) and three more transversal chapters (about the role of the EU, that of trade unions in pension reforms, and the main challenges to pension systems in Europe) proves that pension systems have been altered in the wake of the recent crisis. The more evident changes have consisted of: the halt – at least in some countries – of the spread of private pension funds; the improvement in the financial viability of the systems paralleled by more evident risks for the future adequacy of pension benefits; and the alteration of pension politics with the risk of the progressive marginalisation of the trade union movement. In many countries, reforms have been passed without any major social concertation, while the European Union (EU) has had a more evident influence, especially in the countries hit most by the crisis. As a consequence of these trends, we see the emergence of a "new" pension mix in Europe, with new institutional settings, and new challenges.
France: Squaring the Circle of Unification in a Fragmented Pension System (Marek Naczyk)
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France: Squaring the Circle of Unification in a Fragmented Pension System
As is the case with all pension systems in affluent democracies, the institutional design of French retirement provision is the result of coalitional alignments – and realignments – between politicians and interest groups representing business and workers. In its famous 1944 programme, the National Council of the Resistance (Conseil National de la Résistance) called for the creation of a “comprehensive social security plan” for “all citizens”. But, under the influence of corporatist ideas, post-war policymakers agreed to create separate statutory pension schemes for different social groups such as private-sector workers, civil servants, workers in state-owned utilities, the learned professions, craftsmen, farmers, etc. (Palier, 2005: 73–7). As a result, French pension provision became strongly fragmented along occupational lines. The post-war system’s other striking feature – particularly for the largest groups of beneficiaries, that is, public- and private-sector workers – was its almost exclusive reliance on social insurance and the “pay-as-you-go” method of financing, that is, transfers between the working-age population and pensioners. Thus, while public-sector workers were covered by very generous pay-as-you-go final-salary statutory plans, private-sector workers got their benefits from a much more basic earnings-related statutory arrangement, which was complemented by occupational schemes created through collective agreements. Significantly, these supplementary schemes were also, and still are, financed on a pay-as-you-go basis. This contrasts with the situation in other European countries, where occupational pensions have traditionally been “fully funded...
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