Tuesday, March 24, 2015

France's mad, chaotic social security regimes

Unless you have tried to make a living in France, you may not be familiar with the utterly chaotic and inefficient tax and social security regimes - and the consequences on (un)employment.

It would tale a sizeable book to explain but very briefly if you work in France, either employed or self-employed, your social contributions are collected by one of several semi-independent bodies, and depend under which 'regime' you are working. For example as an employee, a farmer, a liberal profession and so on. If you work at more than one job - for example, you are an employed school teacher but during those long weeks on holiday, you also run an art gallery - you will pay security contributions into at least two schemes, one for each activity. Heaven help you if you have muultiple occupations, as many people do in Britain, or in the above example also create and sell your own artworks (another regime!)

When I lived in Britain before coming to France, I worked simultaneously as a part-time university lecturer, a writer and journalist, a legal consultant and as an advocate in the employment tribunal. In France this would involve five or possibly six separate social security 'regimes' (as authors are separate from journalists!). As I earned more I paid proportionately higher tax and social security charges, with contributions all going into one pot, regardless of their source. This situation will of course be familiar to many others who have multiple-sources earnings.

Not surprisingly the Anglo-Saxon approaches, proposed two or three secades ago by authors such as Charles Handy, have not reached France. It was Handy and others who predicted a future of 'mixed employments' for many, involving periods of full or part-time working, job sharing, self-employment, mixed employment, unemployment, and this is a reality for many in Britain and the USA.

French economists such as Emmanuel Macron, author of a 200-point plan to revive the French economy, appear not to have glanced across the Channel, and whatever reforms the socialist government*  proposes are rendered ineffectual because no-one has had the courage and foresight to radically to tackle the current system of separate social security regimes.

As I wrote in an earlier post among the worst scandales associated with the different social security regimes are the long delays in making payments: twelve months or more since becoming retired, several thousand French people are still awaiting their first pension payments while their social security providers try to work out the correct level, based on a lifetime of contributions.

* It should be noted that none of the other major French political parties has come up with a better plan.