Thursday, December 18, 2014

Scandal of French pensions

Those of us living in France and in receipt of a Bitish state pension - which may not be over-generous but arrives on time - may sympathise with their French neighbours still waiting for  their first payment , in some cases two years after they reached the age of entitlement.

This worrying situation was revealed last night in the TV programme "C'est dans l'air" (Channel 5, 17:45) which examined the failure of every government  during the last three d├ęcades to reform the French pensions service. Not only have the French insisted for the most part that retirement starts at age 60 (when virtually every other country in Europe has raised the official retirement age to cope with shorter working lives and longer life expectancy) but the system relies on a multiplicity of semi-private providers (known as "caisses") depending on your occupation, with only public sector pensions being the direct responsibility of the government.

As you change jobs, you change pension provider, and calculating - and paying - your final pension depends on your last provider, who has the task of assembling information from all of the pensioner's previous assurers. It is this task which is causing serious delays and the programme highlighted two couples still awaiting their first pension payment two years after the husbands finished work. They are meanwhile relying on their savings, the help of family and friends, charities and state handouts. One particular "caisse" had a backlog of five thousand similar cases and had closed its office to the public in order to try and deal with the situation.

One of the programme's commentators noted that the situation was particularly critical in certain regions of France, and highlighted the north east and Languedoc-Roussillon as among the worst.