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“Social protection, from now on, must be earned”

Grandstand. Even if the course of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term has been greatly modified by the pandemic, the continuity between the 2017 announcements in terms of social protection and the reforms carried out remains strong. The social doctrine of the 2017 candidate was inspired by the social-liberalism of Tony Blair or Gerhard Schröder, but it is also in line with the reforms of his predecessors, already characterized by reductions in social security contributions, the liberalization of the market of work, the conditionality of assistance benefits, the harmonization of the various pension schemes… The social reforms of the Macron presidency therefore appear as a completion of the metamorphosis of our social protection system into a system that can be described as “liberal-meritocratic”.

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The consistency between the measures taken and the doctrine behind them is striking. First of all, it is a matter of favoring a so-called “work value”, that is to say encouraging the unemployed, the young or the most vulnerable to accept any job, even precarious, badly paid and badly protected, rather than social benefits presented as too generous and for which we would spend a “crazy dough”. The value of work in question here neglects the quality of jobs and the qualification of people. It is a question of highlighting the duties more than the rights – duty to train, to find a job even if it does not correspond to one’s qualifications. And these duties become conditions for benefiting from social rights.

Lower contributions

We are thus moving from an insurance system, which guaranteed “social security” in the face of the vagaries of life and the market, to a system which conditions access to benefits on the behavior of the beneficiaries: social protection now has to be earned. These are the same principles that guide the “contract of engagement” for young people (which makes income conditional on training or job search), the reform of unemployment insurance (which reduces the level of benefits, especially for those who live on successions of short contracts), the increase in the activity bonus (rather than that of wages).

It is then a question of promoting a so-called “universal” social protection which, in fact, constitutes only a state-controlled, minimal, sometimes conditional base and giving free rein to commercial supplements. The pseudo-universalization of unemployment insurance, 100% coverage of prosthesis costs or even plans for a “universal” pension system are primarily aimed at nationalizing collective social protection. The social partners, the embodiment of post-war “social democracy”, who were still present in the management of unemployment insurance, supplementary health or pensions, were ousted, and the financing, which was based on social security contributions levied on salaries, is gradually being replaced by taxes (particularly the CSG). The State wants to be the only one to finance and to decide.

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