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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Retraites : un transfert à la hussarde

by Y. H.

Retirement: An Unjust Transfer

Translated Thursday 5 September 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

In exchange for a slight increase in the old-age social security contribution, the employers are to benefit from a massive reduction in the family social security contribution.

The minister of labor confirmed on August 28 that the government intends to undertake a “gradual transfer (…) of part of the financing of family and sickness [social security benefits] to other modes of financing.” The decision will be taken “in three weeks.” It will give satisfaction to a long-standing demand on the part of the employers: in “exchange” for a very slight increase in the old-age contribution included in the retirement reform, which will cost them an extra 2.2 billion euros, the employers may thus see themselves “relieved” of the trifling sum of 34 billion euros in family social security contributions. It is greatly to be feared that the burden, in the form of income or other taxes, will fall exclusively on households.

To hear the MEDEF, the main French bosses’ organization, the financing of family social security is not the responsibility of the employers. “Their view is that the worker is a sort of object in the service of the company so long as he’s at work. As soon as he quits work, he’s nothing,” is the analysis put forward by Nasser Mansouri, an economist for the CGT trade union confederation. “But a worker is a human being whose life has a certain continuity! Even in capitalist reasoning, the reproduction of the capacity to work necessitates the continuity of the worker as a human being.” Don’t companies gain an advantage from a country that has a high rate of fertility thanks to its family-friendly policies, from a population, in particular from wage workers, who have the means to raise their children?

At root, the bosses justify their complaint with the necessity of “allowing companies some breathing space,” as they are supposedly throttled by the “cost of labor,” said Pierre Gattaz, the head of the MEDEF, who laments a fall in companies’ (profit) margin. Although the profit margin does indeed show a slight fall, this is “not astonishing in a period of economic crisis,” and “in the long term, the rate of profit has grown sharply, and, for all that, this has gone neither to investment nor to labor,” Nasser Mansouri responds.

And he points out that, over the last three decades, labor has in reality been devalorized (the proportion of wages in added value has fallen by almost ten percent), whereas “what has increased is above all the cost of capital,” in other words the amount companies pay to shareholders and creditors. The cost of capital? At the MEDEF, they never heard of it…

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