Work, justice, education… Where are the “priority projects” of Emmanuel Macron, one year after the pension reform

The goal: to restart his second five-year term by turning the page on pension reform. On 17 April 2023, after the Constitutional Council confirmed much of the text, Emmanuel Macron gave a speech to remind the French of his road map.

Labor, justice, health, education… The President of the Republic then insisted on several “priority projects”. One year after this speech, franceinfo analyzes the progress of the main announced works.

“Putting as many RSA users back to work as possible”: a reform that is not yet widespread

In terms of employment, Emmanuel Macron intended to “redouble efforts to put as many RSA beneficiaries back to work as possible”. The law “for full employment” of December 18, 2023 conditioned the payment of active solidarity income with fifteen or even twenty hours of integration activity per week.

The text also provides that users are automatically registered with France Travail (formerly Pôle Emploi). Until then, only 41% of RSA users were registered with Pôle Emploi, according to a note published in 2022 (PDF document) by the Directorate for Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (Drees). Enhanced support is offered to all beneficiaries, with some benefiting from joint follow-up by a France Travail adviser and a ward social worker.

For now, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of this conditional RSA, whose experimentation went from 18 to 47 departments at the beginning of March. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal stated on this occasion that every second user returned to work after five months, but this statement should be taken with caution. According to our information, the head of government is actually on a very fragmented sample of about 5,000 people, out of almost 21,300 beneficiaries of conditional RSP. However, France had a total of 2.1 million people on RSA at the end of 2022, according to Drees.

“Patients suffering from chronic diseases without a general practitioner will have access to it”: the promise is far from fulfilled

Regarding health, Emmanuel Macron assured in his speech that “by the end of the year (2023) 600,000 patients with chronic diseases who do not have a doctor will have a doctor”. In the process, the government launched an action plan to accelerate the resolution of this issue. But the goal was not achieved. “We will not be there,” admitted Agnès Firmin-Le Bodo, then Minister of Health, on the Franceinfo set in December 2023. During this interview, she recited “by heart” the figure of “180,000” chronic disease patients who found their doctor.

Counting “600,000 patients with chronic diseases”, the head of state was far from the number anyway. In March 2023, the Ministry of Health recorded more than 700,000 people in this situation. In contact with franceinfo, the National Health Insurance Fund provided an updated estimate: in December 2023, 240,000 people with chronic diseases found a doctor, and 472,000 others did not.

“Increasing employment for the elderly”: continuing difficulties

Emmanuel Macron promised to “increase the employment of the elderly and help with retraining”. The government has set itself the goal of an employment rate of 65% “by 2030.” for people aged 60 to 64, while it amounted to only 36.2% in 2022, according to data from the Department of Statistics of the Ministry of Labor (PDF document). The rate is below the European average and the average of OECD countries. It is clear that difficulties remain.

“There have been no major changes in the employment of the elderly in the past year,” notes franceinfo Bruno Coquet, an economist specializing in unemployment. “The employment rate of the elderly has been increasing for twenty years, but it is structural.” This increase, common to most Western European countries, is explained by “the entry of baby boomers into the category of over 55”, explains Hippolyte d'Albis, Chief Economist of the General Inspectorate of Finance, in his publication Elderly and Employment.

The executive power saw its pension reform as one of the most effective levers for increasing the employment of older people. But a Unedic study published in March 2023 shows that previous reforms had the opposite effect. “Raising the legal retirement age has paradoxically not had a net positive effect on the employment of older people,” observes Hippolyte d'Albis. Indeed, even if this increase may have contributed to an “increase in the number of employed older people”, it has also contributed to an “increase in the number of unemployed, disabled and sick people”, the economist argues in his paper.

The three-and-a-half-month negotiations between the unions and employers to find an agreement on improving the employment of the elderly ended in failure on the night of April 9-10. This jeopardizes the government's confirmation of the unemployment insurance agreement agreed in the fall. This could get old quickly anyway. At the end of March, Gabriel Attal announced a new reform of unemployment insurance. Reducing senior jobseeker's allowance is one way being considered.

“Finding solutions for professional wear”: mixed results

The president wanted to “find solutions to professional attrition”, caused by certain professions with difficult conditions. Three months before her intervention, then Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne congratulated herself that with the pension reform she had “enriched all the measures that can allow effort (at work) to be taken into account”. However, his observation needs to be qualified. If the reform made it possible to lower the threshold for obtaining certain hardship criteria, giving the right to an earlier pension, three criteria “disappeared” from 2017: carrying heavy loads, the presence of painful positions and mechanical vibrations.

These so-called “ergonomic” risks, recognized by the Ministry of Labor as being responsible for 87% of occupational diseases recognized each year, are, however, taken into account for the prevention and retraining of the employees concerned. These measures are financed by the investment fund for the prevention of professional attrition, established in April 2023 and allocated EUR 1 billion over a period of five years.

“Moving with a heavy load is not considered strenuous, it is professional wear and tear,” explains Emeric Jeansen, social law lecturer, to franceinfo. “Previously, he could hope to accumulate points year after year in order to retire early. Now, all he has the right to do is demand that his employer take preventive action to prevent his harm,” he summarizes. “As far as I know, nothing has happened since the pension reform law,” concludes this expert.

“Initiate the reform of the secondary vocational school”: work in progress

Emmanuel Macron has announced that he wants to “initiate a reform of the secondary vocational school” so that “the largest number of our adolescents and our young people have access to either a really qualified education or employment”. The reform is well underway. From the beginning of the 2023 school year, measures have been developed to prevent school dropouts and promote the professional integration of young high school students, such as awarding training periods in a professional environment or even teaching in small groups for enhanced mathematics and French lessons in voluntary institutions.

The beginning of the 2024 school year should be an opportunity to implement another important measure: the creation of two differentiated courses between students who want to continue their studies and those who want to directly enter the world of work.

While the details of the reform are yet to be defined in the coming months, the initiative is already being discussed among teachers' unions. “This reform will increase difficulties. Young people who choose the corporate path will lose 180 hours of lessons,” complains Axel Benoist, co-secretary general of the vocational education union SNUEP-FSU. According to him, the rest of the reform must be presented in the spring, with the goal of implementation at the beginning of the 2024 school year.

“Systematic replacement of absent teachers”: improvement

This is one of the main demands of parents, some of whom even filed a lawsuit against the state in May 2023 for not replacing absent teachers. Emmanuel Macron reiterated the executive's desire to systematically replace absent teachers from the beginning of the 2023 school year.

The decree of August 8, 2023 established new rules in this area. Several tools were introduced to improve the situation, especially the “pact for teachers”. This system allows teachers to receive an annual bonus in exchange for additional missions, such as replacing absent colleagues. At the second level, compensation for absences of less than 15 days had to be provided internally by colleagues of the absent teacher. From now on, rectors can call on external solutions to fill these absences.

Although resources are provided, not all absences are replaced. According to government data, the replacement rate in primary education increased by 8.7 points between August 2022 and September 2023, reaching 77.4%. In the same period, we note a slight improvement (0.5 points) in secondary education, with 94.5% of replacements. The government's goal in primary and secondary education is to achieve 95%.

“Continue to recruit more than 10,000 judges and agents”: still far from the mark

In matters of the judiciary, the president reiterated the government's intention to “continue to recruit more than 10,000 judges and agents.” The reform project was presented in May 2023. Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti promised to create 10,000 jobs for civil servants. In contact with franceinfo, the ministry detailed certain employment targets: “1,500 judges, 1,800 officials by 2027 and 1,100 judicial attachés by the end of 2024.” This is why the budget for the judiciary was increased to 11 billion euros in 2027. A year after the announcements of the head of state, where are we?

According to the ministry, “2,400 contract officers are already employed in the courts as of 2020 as part of the local judiciary.” The office does not specify the nature of the positions these agents occupy. The government's website offers tracking of recruitment progress, but has not been updated since August 31, 2023. By that deadline, 252 judges, or 17% of the target, had been employed.

Four months later, the National School of Justice (ENM) revealed the composition of its class of 2024, which consists of 353 aspiring magistrates, according to the institution's website, an increase of almost 37% compared to the class of 2022 (258 students). “So you will be part of the largest class of ENM listeners since its inception,” rejoiced Nathalie Roret, director of the institution, in a video for new members.

For clerk positions, the Ministry of Justice launched the first recruitment session in October 2023, with 450 positions to be filled, according to France Travail. So far, 412 candidates have been preselected, according to the website of the Ministry of Justice. However, according to this source, the second recruitment session will take place in April 2024.

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