Behind the anger over pension reform, a deep labor crisis – Pension reform
“In Italy, where the legal retirement age is 67, the French debate seems a bit lunar”, explained recently, to “Figaro”, Anaïs Ginori, correspondent for the daily “Repubblica”. Ditto for the Germans or the British, who do not leave before at least 65 years old.
The British magazine “The Economist” evokes “the cost of the French art of living” by defending the measure at the heart of Emmanuel Macron’s reform, the raising of the retirement age from 62 to 64, massively rejected by the French.
The concept of well-being at work has only recently appeared in France
However, beyond the clichés that persist on the French lazy or clinging to an outdated social model, it is the relationship to work that makes French society unique, say researchers. “In other European countries, we are in efficiency and the relationship to work is much less passionate”, analyzes Romain Bendavid, director of the Work Experience pole at the Ifop institute. “Managerial cultures are very different and the notion of well-being at work, which is very important, for example, in the Nordic countries, only recently appeared in France,” he adds.
“More constraints in France than elsewhere”
“The French are more numerous than many of their neighbors to attach great importance to work”, abounds the sociologist Dominique Méda, and their expectations, whatever their age, status or gender, are “without doubt stronger than ‘elsewhere, but smash on the reality of the working conditions’, which are harsher in France, she insists.
The professor of sociology at Paris-Dauphine University relies on the Eurofound 2021 European survey: “The results show that there are more physical and psychological constraints in France than elsewhere, fewer consultations, fewer autonomy, less recognition (not only salary), more discrimination and violence”, she lists.
A reform deemed “unfair and brutal”
“Retirement before arthritis!” », « We worked, it’s not to die! “: the slogans which have flourished in the demonstrations (eight days of action since January 19, a 9th scheduled for March 23) have highlighted the anger, even the despair against a pension reform deemed “unjust and brutal”. “I was a cashier for 34 years. My arms, I can no longer move them, ”said Monique Bourely, 60, during a demonstration at the end of January, in Mende (Lozère), describing the government’s project as “shame”.
The labor crisis explodes in the face of the government
For Dominique Méda, there is “a labor crisis which has been completely concealed so far, but which is revealed by the pension reform and which explodes in the face of the government”.
Search for meaning, questions about one’s priorities… The health crisis and confinement have, of course, played a major role, leading many working people to reflect on their relationship to work.
Those on the “front line” (healthcare personnel, cashiers, garbage collectors, etc.), elevated to the rank of “heroes” during confinement before falling back into the most perfect anonymity, are among the first concerned, such as workers and employees, notes Dominique Meda.
But this labor crisis also affects executives. “The covid has reinforced my questions about my social usefulness and relativized the importance of my work”, says Juliette Hamon, 50-year-old editorial secretary. “What makes me angry about the pension reform is that it will affect precisely those who do not have the luxury of asking themselves these questions, because work is a question of survival. And we are pushing back their retirement age, which is the only time when they will be able to give room to the rest, ”she says indignantly.
“Behind the challenge to the pension reform, there is like a general psychoanalysis, a philosophical debate”, judges Romain Bendavid, underlining “the collapse of the place of work in the life of the French”.
This, considered “very important” by 60% of them in 1990, is only so for 21% in 2022, according to the results of a survey for the Jean-Jaurès Foundation. “Be careful, there is no question of saying that the French are lazy. Work remains “important” for more than 80% of working people, but it is no longer central, it is no longer necessarily a space for self-realization”, deciphers the researcher, for whom the political world, whether at right or left, has not grasped this new reality.
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