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Distributional effects of social security reforms: The case of France


  • Raquel Fonseca
  • Thepthida Sopraseuth


This paper assesses the impact of two social security reforms using a calibrated, dynamic life cycle model. It quantifies the long‐run distributional impact of two sets of reforms in France: (1) the 2013 reform of Prime Minister Ayrault, which modified the parameters of a defined benefit (DB) plan, and (2) a hypothetical reform that changes the system to a notional defined contribution (NDC) plan, similar to that in Italy. First, on aggregate welfare, the Ayrault reform and the hypothetical switch to NDC yield contrasting results. The Ayrault reform improves aggregate welfare, which is not the case for the NDC reform. Welfare comparisons are made with respect to the “benchmark economy,” where increases in life expectancy occur and are dealt with only through a higher contribution rate. Second, both reforms yield unequal distributions of welfare changes, with low‐skill workers on the losing end. Under the Ayrault reform, low‐skill workers delay retirement by two years, to age 62. Under NDC reform, pensions for low‐skill workers fall substantially as inequalities during the work life translate directly into inequalities in pensions. The switch to an NDC scheme leads to a more unequal society in terms of asset and welfare distribution. Les effets redistributifs des réformes de retraite: le cas de la France. Cet article utilise un modèle de cycle de vie dynamique calibré pour quantifier l’impact distributif à long terme de deux réformes du système de retraite en France: (1) la réforme Ayrault de 2013, qui modifie les paramètres d’un système à prestations déterminées (PD); (2) un passage hypothétique à un système de comptes notionnels à cotisation déterminé (NDC), comme en Italie. Tout d’abord, les deux réformes donnent lieu à des résultats opposés en terme de bien‐être aggrégé. La réforme Ayrault améliore le bien‐être total, ce qui n’est pas de la réforme NDC. Les comparaisons de bien‐être sont effectuées par rapport à une économie de référence caractérisée par une hausse de l’espérance de vie et des taux de cotisation. De plus, les réformes donnent lieu à des distributions inégales du bien‐être, avec les travaileurs peu qualifiés dans la queue de distribution. En effet, la réforme Ayrault les contraint à travailler deux années supplémentaires, jusqu’à l’âge de 62 ans. Le système NDC conduit à une réduction marquée des pensions de retraite, en particulier pour les travailleurs peu qualifiés, les inégalités au cours de la vie active se répercutant sur le montant des pensions. Le passage au système NDC se traduirait par une hausse des inégalités de patrimoine financier et de bien‐être.

Suggested Citation

  • Raquel Fonseca & Thepthida Sopraseuth, 2019. "Distributional effects of social security reforms: The case of France," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 52(3), pages 1289-1320, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:canjec:v:52:y:2019:i:3:p:1289-1320
    DOI: 10.1111/caje.12399

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity


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