The drift of social accounts will complicate the pension reform

Will the beautiful building crumble? The executive is banking on the improvement of the social accounts to conduct its reform of the pension system without shunning the public opinion with a decline in age or a decline in pensions. But this construction has been weakened by the crisis of "yellow vests". The cost of the emergency measures announced on December 10 by Emmanuel Macron will weigh on the accounts of the Social Security in 2019, prohibiting as it stands his return to balance. In addition, growth is falling, which will likely force the government to review its fiscal trajectory at the end of this quarter.

At the time of the vote on the emergency economic and social law, before Christmas, senators obtained from the government new budget projections for Social Security in 2019. Contrary to the financing law voted a few days earlier, these calculations take into account the decline in the CSG of certain pensioners and the progress over time of the exemption from social security charges on overtime. Each of these two measures will cost the Social Security 1.3 billion euros this year, a total impact of 2.6 billion.

The general scheme, including the old-age solidarity fund, now displays a deficit forecast of 2.5 billion euros. While the 2019 budget of Social Security has been voted in excess of 100 million euros - the initial government project was even 700 million. As for the pension branch, instead of a positive balance of 600 million euros, it would show a negative balance of 700 million (not to mention the deficit of the Old Age Solidarity Fund).

Savings that may vanish

At the cost of emergency measures is added the deterioration of the economic situation. The chaos of December has weighed on growth and will affect the coming months, in connection with a more general deterioration of the international economic environment. In particular, the general system should be affected by the slowdown in job creations.

The expected savings, too, could be reduced if inflation was below expectations. To show a balance of the pension system at the time of the reform, in 2019-2020, the government decided to hardly upgrade pensions (+ 0.3%) for two years. For 2019, the potential gap in the forecast should not be huge (inflation was significant in 2018). But for 2020, it could be more important.

This darkening of the fiscal outlook gives grit to supporters of a harder pension reform to rebuild the books. "While the country is in a state of emergency, we are told that the reform will not produce its full effects until 2040 and that it will produce no economy. Is it reasonable? ", asked on Thursday in our columns Laurent Wauquiez, the president of the party Republicans.

If voices in the majority also demand a turn screw on the old age, it would singularly complicate the task of the High Commissioner for pension reform, Jean-Paul Delevoye, which seeks instead to pacify the debate as much as possible.

Solveig Godeluck