Pensions: forced to work longer, will senior women be able to find a job?

The plan to postpone the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 raises the key question of the employment of seniors. Getty Images

As the pension reform bill soon arrives in the National Assembly, access to employment for over 50s raises questions, especially for women.

The text, flammable, is about to arrive at the National Assembly. The examination of the pension reform bill must be examined in committee in a few days, before the start, a short week later, of the debates in the hemicycle. If passed, the statutory retirement age will be raised from 62 to 64. This implies that women, even more than men, will have to work longer, according to the official impact study of the reform, published on Monday 23 January. Many of them, after a cut or interrupted career, are now reaching retirement age without having completed all their trimesters. They must therefore continue to work or suffer a reduction until the age of 67. On the other hand, those who have had children without interrupting their career can, most often, leave at 62 with a full pension. They are the most penalized by the postponement: they will have to work seven months longer than today on average, compared to five months for men.

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But they still have to be able to. While the employment rate for seniors is increasing, working people over 50, and even more so women, face specific difficulties. In 2021, only 56% of 55-64 year olds are employed, compared to nearly 82% of 25-49 year olds, according to a report by Dares (1), the studies department of the Ministry of Labour, published on January 12. . This rate, the highest since 1975, hides a French lag in this area: the European Union average is 60.5%.

Women’s employment lagging behind

Above all, it varies by genre. The employment rate for women is 54.3% (against 57.7% for men), and the activity rate (which brings together employed and unemployed women, Editor’s note), at 57.9%, compared to 61.1% for men. Above all, those who work are much more often part-time: 32% of them use it, against only 11% of men, again according to Dares.

The authors of the report point to a final difference according to gender: if the unemployment rate for 55-64 year olds is slightly lower among women (6.1% against 6.5%), it is in particular because “these the latter are more often retired and women more frequently inactive without being retired”. Stuck in a kind of in-between, therefore, neither at work nor withdrawn from the job market. How, then, can seniors be guaranteed a job until they retire?

A “senior index” still vague

As a response, the government draws the project of a senior index, modeled on the “professional equality” index established in 2019 against gender inequalities at work. This system must force companies with more than 300 employees to publish, each year, indicators, as yet undefined, of the share of seniors among their employees and the efforts made to promote their recruitment.

If the reform is adopted before the summer, as the majority hope, this index will come into force on November 1, 2023 for companies with 1,000 employees and on July 1, 2024 for those with 300 employees. The companies concerned that do not publish their indicators will then be exposed to a financial penalty. Doubled, for companies that do not progress in terms of employment of seniors, a “reinforced obligation to negotiate a social agreement”.

Consensus against the device

The unions, supposed to define the indicators of the index with the government, are constantly criticizing it. The Medef, which supports pension reform, opposes too heavy pressure and sanctions that would weigh on employers. The employee unions, united in the face of the bill, consider the system insufficient to ensure the recruitment and retention of seniors. Hence a door, opened by certain ministers and deputies of the majority, who say they are open to discussions. Even if it means, perhaps, tightening the system and the sanctions.

(1) Seniors in the labor market in 2021Dares, January 12, 2023.

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