Why pensions weigh so heavily in public spending

Dear retreats. For 1,000 euros of public expenditure, 268 euros, more than a quarter, are devoted to it. This is the first item in the table prepared by the government for the big debate. "The choice of high levies allows the French pension system to provide good protection, but the costs can also reflect a lack of efficiency and weigh on competitiveness"comments Hervé Boulhol, an OECD economist.

In 2017, pensions amounted to 316 billion euros, or 13.8% of the national wealth. Despite the successive reforms, and counting the share of private and non-compulsory pensions, France remains in the leading pack of the most developed developed countries. It is well ahead of Germany, which devotes a little more than 10% of its GDP to pensions, and whose population is aging faster than ours.

An income higher than that of the entire population

In France, the system provides a good level of average pension. According to the OECD, in 2014, a French person over 65 earned 103.4% of average income, and the only 66-75 year old ... 110.6%. In no other country can we find such a ratio. In Germany, it is much lower at 88.5%. In the OECD, the average is 87.6%. And this French exception can not be explained by the capital raised during working life: 77% of this income comes from public transfers, and thus from old-age insurance.

Retirees are well covered, with a substantial safety net (minimum old age, minimum pension) and survivor pensions which weigh 1.5 points of GDP (36 billion euros) - while the Nordic countries, for example, have chosen to reduce these "survivor rights".

This generosity is reflected in the poverty rate of retirees. In France, 3.5% of those over 65 live on less than half of the median income, while the OECD average is 12.5%.

A long life at retirement

Would French public spending be less effective? Obviously, the coexistence of 42 pension plans entails administrative costs - but this problem is supposed to disappear with the coming creation of a universal system.

We can also ask about the length of life spent in retirement. It exceeds 27 years for French women, and 24 years for French, against respectively 18 and 22 years in the OECD. "The French leave the job market four years earlier on average than the others. In this record length of life at retirement, the contribution of life expectancy is only one third, and two-thirds are related to the age of the end of career ", says Hervé Boulhol. Between "comfortable" pensions and retirement at age 62, it will probably be necessary to choose one day or the other.

Why pensions weigh so heavily in public spending

Solveig Godeluck