French bankers on the retirement age: "I already pay very high taxes"
As French protests rage over plans to hike the state retirement age from 62 to 64, bankers in Paris are ambivalent about the protesters' cause. Some are sympathetic to the manual workers facing another two years of work. Most, though, are also very clear that they themselves are not keen on paying higher taxes to fund other people's early retirement.
"I’m already paying very high social taxes for the pension system (much higher than what I will receive)," says one French managing director at a European bank in Paris. "If my contribution increases, I won’t stay, it’s as simple as that."
The protests follow Emmanuel Macron's decision to invoke Article 49.3 of the French constitution and push the retirement age changes through without a vote in the National Assembly. While finance professionals are broadly in approval of Macron's attempt to get a grip on French national debt and to align the retirement age with European counterparts, some are critical of his methods. "It's a huge mistake. This sends a signal to the financial markets on the problem of French public debt," says the MD. "- Macron should have focused on inefficient spending in the administration rather than on pensions, but as usual he preferred the easy way and got trapped."
While French workers battle for retirement at an age when they can still comfortably bend their knees to play boules, some bankers say they expect to work into their dotage anyway. One fund manager informs us he expects to work until 70 simply because he "loves his job." Another senior M&A banker points out that even under current rules, most French bankers can't claim their state pensions until they're 64. "It takes five to six years to graduate from most of the big French business and engineering schools, so we also work later," he points out. "These reforms are really hitting the people who started work aged around 20 and who have been doing physical work."
French manual workers who were looking forward to retiring at 62 and who now have to grind for another two years aren't immune to the sympathy of the French financial elite. Another Paris MD said he supports a two tier system: "Retirement for physically strenuous jobs should be earlier than it is today, and retirement for desk jobs such as ours should be much further away." However, the same MD offered some words of caution to young people joining the protests, who would likely end up bearing the tax burden of lowering the retirement age for physical jobs: "It's against their own interest."
Despite being unwilling to stick their heads above the precipice and say so in public, most of the senior French bankers we spoke to support Macron and stand by his reforms as "logical" and "part of the global trend." And while Paris is upended by protests, all the bankers we spoke to said they were unaffected by the chaos. - Most senior bankers live in the upmarket 7th arrondissement where the rubbish, for example, is collected promptly by a private contractor.
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