A minimum wage in Germany: a small step for Europe, a big one for Germany

By Odile Chagny (Ires) and Sabine Le Bayon

After several months of parliamentary debate, a minimum wage will be phased in between 2015 and 2017 in Germany. The debate led to only slight modifications in the bill introduced last April, which came out of the coalition agreement between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. The minimum wage will rise in 2017 to 8.50 euros gross per hour, or about 53% of the median hourly wage. In a country that constitutionally guarantees the social partners autonomy in the determination of working conditions, this represents a major rupture. Overall, the importance of the introduction of the minimum wage lies not so much in the stimulus it will be expected to have on growth in Germany and the euro zone as in the turning point it represents in how the value of labour is viewed in a country that has historically tolerated the notion that this can differ depending on the status of the person (or persons) carrying it out [1]. Continue reading “A minimum wage in Germany: a small step for Europe, a big one for Germany”

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How can a basic income be defended?

By Guillaume Allègre

Following the submission of 125,000 signatures collected by organizations supporting the introduction of a basic income, Swiss citizens will vote in a referendum on a popular initiative on the inclusion of the principle of an unconditional basic income in the Swiss Federal Constitution. Continue reading “How can a basic income be defended?”

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France-Germany: is there a demographic dividend?

By Vincent Touzé

Thanks to a high birth rate, France is aging less quickly than Germany. According to Eurostat, the French population is expected to exceed the German population by 2045. France could well become a European champion. But to what extent should we be talking about a demographic dividend? Continue reading “France-Germany: is there a demographic dividend?”

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2013 pensions: a (little) reform…

By Henri Sterdyniak

The measures announced by the government on August 27th do not constitute a major reform of the pension system. As shown in an OFCE Note (no. 31 of 4 September 2013), they are essentially funding measures that are limited in scope. Pensioners are affected more than assets, and the business world has obtained a promise that it will not be hit. Fiscal equilibrium is not really assured, as it is conditioned on a strong economic recovery (by 2020), sustained growth and a net decrease in the relative level of pensions by 2040. Measures in favor of women and workers who are subjected to difficult work conditions were announced, but their implementation was delayed; the challenges are still not being met. The worst was certainly avoided (the de-indexation of pensions, a rapid change in the age of retirement eligibility, a so-called structural reform); the system is proclaimed to be sustainable, but the (little) reform of 2013 has not done much to ensure the system’s economic and social reliability.

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Pensions: the Moreau report’s poor compromise

By Henri Sterdyniak

Under pressure from the financial markets and Europe’s institutions, the government felt obliged to present a new pension reform in 2013. However, reducing the level of pensions should not now be a priority for French economic policy: it is much more urgent to re-establish satisfactory growth, reform the euro zone’s macroeconomic strategy, and give a new boost to France’s industrial policy as part of an ecological transition. Establishing a committee of senior officials and experts is a common practice that is used these days to depoliticize economic and social choices and distance them from democratic debate. In this respect, the Moreau report, released on 14 June 2013, seems like a bad compromise. Although it does not call into question the public pension system, it weakens it and does not give itself the means to ensure the system’s social viability. Continue reading “Pensions: the Moreau report’s poor compromise”

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Reforming the conjugal quotient

By Guillaume Allègre and Hélène Périvier

As part of a review of family benefit programmes (the motivations for which are in any case debatable), the government has announced plans to reduce the cap on the family quotient benefit in the calculation of income tax (IR) from 2014. The tax benefit associated with the presence of dependent children in the household will be reduced from 2000 to 1500 euros per half share. Opening discussion on the family quotient should provide an opportunity for a more general review of how the family is taken into account in the calculation of income tax, and in particular the taxation of couples. Continue reading “Reforming the conjugal quotient”

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Housing and the city: the new challenges

By Sabine Le Bayon, Sandrine Levasseur and Christine Rifflart

The residential real estate market is a market like no other. Since access to housing is a right and since inequalities in housing are increasing, the role of government is crucial to better regulate how the market functions. France has a large stock of social housing. Should it be expanded further? Should it have a regulatory role in the overall functioning of the housing market? Should our neighbours’ systems of social housing, in particular the Dutch and British systems, be taken as models? Continue reading “Housing and the city: the new challenges”

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What kind of pension reform for 2013?

In a speech on 28 March, Francois Hollande raised the 20 billion euro deficit forecast for 2020 in order to announce a further extension of the pension contributions period, while refusing to end the indexation of low state pensions and pensions in the statutory pension system. Francois Hollande and the French government also pledged to re-balance the public finances by 2017. As they no longer wish to increase the tax burden in a period of weak or even non-existent growth, this means cutting public spending by at least 70 billion euros, or about 7%. As pensions account for a quarter of public expenditure, they cannot be spared the austerity axe. There is a major risk that the goal of re-balancing the public finances will result in lowering the level of pension payments. When negotiating the supplemental pension arrangements in March 2013, the MEDEF managed to obtain pension increases of 1 percentage point below the inflation rate for 3 years, meaning a 3% loss in purchasing power. In a recently published note (Notes de l’OFCE, no. 26 dated 24 April 2013), Henri Sterdyniak explains that there are other possible approaches to reform.

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Family benefits: family business?

By Hélène Périvier

Bertrand Fragonard has submitted his report to the Prime Minister; it aims, first, to enhance the redistributive nature of family policy and, second, to rebalance the accounts of the family branch, which have recently been running a deficit, by 2016. A realignment of family benefits towards low-income families is proposed as the first objective. As for the second, the two options proposed are adjusting benefits based on means, or taxing them. How can 2 billion euros be found in today’s lean times? Continue reading “Family benefits: family business?”

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How to reform the reduction on payroll taxes?

By Mathieu Bunel, Céline Emond, Yannick L’Horty

More than 20 billion euros are spent every year by the State to compensate the general exemptions from social security contributions, making this the leading employment policy plank in France, both in terms of the total budget and the numbers concerned – more than one employee out of two benefits from the reduction in contributions. In these times of fiscal pressure and the inexorable upward trend in unemployment, questions are being raised about the sustainability of such a scheme, whose scale, which was unified by the 2003 Fillon reform, consists of a reduction that shrinks as the wage rises, up to the level of 1.6 times the minimum wage (SMIC). At the level of the SMIC, the reduction comes to 26 points (28 points for firms with fewer than 20 employees). Continue reading “How to reform the reduction on payroll taxes?”

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