“The best solution is four days a week,” says Pierre Larrouturou
If Elisabeth Borne has to present her January 10 pension reform to the press, members of government have defended her proposal for several weeks, so much so that the debate has largely occupied year-end celebrations. The essence of the project: postponement of the official retirement age to 64 or 65 years, compared to the current 62. Reflections that are going in the wrong direction for Pierre Larrouturou, MEP and spokesperson for the New Deal. For 20 minutesformer PS and EELV detailing his vision of a better division of labor in society.
According to INSEE, the poorest 25% of French people have died by the age of 65, which is also the life expectancy in good health in France. Is the issue of retirement age also a matter of social justice?
There are huge social justice issues with these reforms. Until recently, the years between 60 or 62 and 65 were the best retirement years. We have free time, we are in good health and a decent income. This is why the government is moving on this question of age, people are aware of it. This morning, one of my collaborators told me about her aunt who retired at 64 and has had degenerative brain disease since she was 65. Not the INSEE curve she had in mind! Asking people to work longer hours is pointless, the Retirement Orientation Council pointed out that the deficit is so small and will be filled in a few years that there is no urgency, and there are other avenues. But this is a social justice issue because there are professions where people are still healthy at the age of 62 or 63 years, and there are those who are old or don’t have a job anymore.
With this reform, what do we say to these unemployed seniors?
They were told “those will be years of horror”. What is their best year to travel or see their grandchildren will be a difficult year, they will have a choice between reducing their pension or remaining in RSA. Elisabeth Borne said that while there are other solutions to strike a balance, that she doesn’t want to extend her contribution past 43 years, it’s time she realized this. The problem is Emmanuel Macron withdrew from one of his most interesting campaign promises, namely a minimum old age of 1,200 euros, so that at least we can live with dignity whatever our way of life.
How to restore balance to the pension system other than by extending the contribution period?
Our solution is to create jobs on a large scale, with two components: a real climate pact, which we proposed with Jean Jouzel, to protect homes, develop renewable energy, etc. We will create 900,000 jobs. Another proposal is to go to a four-day week. In 1995, according to a Boissonnat report commissioned by Balladur, which was not far from the left, there was a quasi-consensus that we should cut our working time by 20% over the next 20 years, with a long schedule for training in all sectors. . Already 400 companies like Fleury Michon or Mamie Nova have switched to a four-day week, without lowering wages with the idea of creating jobs, and thus stopping paying unemployment contributions. It is estimated that with a general movement, we can create 1.6 million jobs. With just these two ideas, we can create 2.5 million jobs, which is as many people earn a salary and contribute to a pension fund.
Plus, research shows that France is one of the countries with the best hourly productivity in Europe. Should we rethink our concept of working time?
People who say we should work more don’t realize the metamorphosis of work over the past 30 years. We are experiencing a revolution because in order to produce more, we need to work less. In the United States, former Bill Clinton minister Robert Reich pointed out that in 30 years, we are making 80% more with 30% fewer jobs thanks to robots and education. This is not the end of the work, we need nannies, farmers, but there is a need to reduce work. So either we leave 30% of people unemployed, or unemployment kills 15,000 people a year, or we can tell ourselves we’re going to divide our work time in a more pleasant way. The best solution to the question of retirement is four days a week without deductions from wages. In a report for Balladur in 1995, everyone agreed it was headed in a historic direction, but in 2023, the full-time Frenchman still works an average of 38.5 hours per week. The scariest thing is that Emmanuel Macron knows all these numbers.
What are the benefits of switching to a four day week?
We are at a time when there is still mass unemployment, and at the same time sectors are struggling to recruit, such as in the restaurant industry, because people don’t want to finish at one in the morning five days a week anymore. At four days, it’s easier. It can also facilitate access to training. At companies that have moved to a four-day week, absenteeism has fallen. From a quality of life perspective, it’s good for balance and health because you set aside time for sports or tourism, for example. When we introduced paid holidays, even Léon Blum feared workers would go to the beach and never return. Currently, the tourism sector is the largest employer. And by freeing up time, we also free up the mind for new ideas. At Pasquier, which grew to four days at the start of Jacques Chirac’s mandate, the CEO, for example, had the idea of a pocket brioche while cycling on his day off. It was the most profitable idea in the company’s history!
Other ways to reduce working time are being studied in Europe, such as paternity or menstrual leave…
There is no single solution. But France is one of the most conservative countries. In Spain, Pedro Sanchez has put four days a week on the table and nobody screams. The poll also shows that a four-day work week is the formula that tilts most employees, more concretely than 32 or 35 hours. Maternity leave is important, but we recognize that there is a risk that employers will hire fewer women, it is a matter of equity. Here too, the four days a week is an opportunity for men and women to better share duties and engage in civic life.
Telecommuting has entered our lives massively and suddenly with the pandemic. How to find a balance between working from the living room and working within the company, especially by working four days?
There’s a balance to be struck, Covid has turned relationships into work. It remains part of our identity, but it’s not just a job in life, people want a new balance and more time for themselves. At the same time, we realized that we could be very productive from home, but we still needed to physically see our co-workers. You have to fumble. Between companies that go to four days, it can be a bit messy at first, and quickly one or two days of mandatory attendance depending on the service specified. We are less involved in transportation and we implement many ideas to improve collective work, such as in pairs, more efficient meetings…