“A wedge is driven between the middle classes and the popular classes”

“A wedge is driven between the middle classes and the popular classes”

Ghanks to recent debates on pensions, a major – but never avowed – objective of most French governments for more than twenty years is finally coming to light: switching from a Bismarckian-type pension system to a Beveridgian system. These two systems differ economically, but also politically. In economic matters, a Bismarckian system (Otto von Bismarck, 1815-1898, Chancellor of Germany) is neutral in the sense that it redistributes from one to the other: contributions like benefits are proportional to wages; for most retirees, system pensions form the bulk of their income.

On the other hand, in a Beveridgean system (William Beveridge, 1879-1963, British economist), only a minimum pension is guaranteed universally, financed by taxes. Those who want more save individually or collectively (through pension funds). Politically, the Beveridgian system separates the working classes, the only dependents of the system and beneficiaries of a certain redistribution, from the middle classes, united with the wealthiest in the financial management of their savings. Conversely, the Bismarckian system brings together the working and middle classes with a view to the proper functioning of distribution, but also employers and employees, who co-manage the system.

In France, as in a number of countries, the pension system has operated on a pay-as-you-go basis since 1945, due to the collapse in the value of capital during the world wars and the crisis of the 1930s. to prefer a socialized and almost universal pension system: even the liberal professions, initially hostile, ended up joining it, and negotiations between professional schemes with different demographic situations led to a gradual ****genization which reinforced support for the system . The reform initially proposed by President Macron (the “retirement by points”) aimed to increase this ****geneity.


But the tide has turned: under the pretext of fighting unemployment, governments have reduced contributions and compensated for the shortfall with earmarked taxes. The State thus takes control of pension insurance and imposes a set of transformations. On the one hand, by allowing deficits to grow without adjusting contributions, it puts downward pressure on benefits. On the other hand, by assimilating contributions to taxes, it arouses the fear of all those who think they are penalized by the tax. Finally, by suggesting that the individual financial return of the system is low, it gives hope to those who have the means to benefit from capitalization instruments.

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