‘You’re bleeding us dry’: Why France’s pensioners are furious with Macron

Pensioners across France are set to protest on Thursday in towns and cities across France. Their anger has been directed at President Emmanuel Macron and this week some of them let him know in person.

'You're bleeding us dry': Why France's pensioners are furious with Macron
Photo: AFP

France's elderly population will march through the streets in towns and cities across the country on Thursday in anger at a move by the government they claim is hitting them hard in the pocket.

Pensioners were the main losers of President Emmanuel Macron's first budget mainly due to the 1.7 percentage point hike in the CSG social charge – a levy deducted from salaries and pensions that goes towards paying for France's social security system.

Only those with an income of less than €1,289 a month were exempt. So most pensioners are paying around €25 more a month, or hundreds of euros more a year.

Many say the drop in their income has left them living on the breadline. 

“We're not the gilded generation,” said Michel Salingue of the FGR-FP union, adding that the average monthly French pension stood at 1,300 euros ($1,600).

“We've contributed more than our share already,” he told AFP.

While the rise in the CSG levy affected all earners, pensions did not benefit from the cuts to other social contributions that resulted in a small rise in most workers' salaries this year.

On a visit to the central city of Tours on Wednesday several pensioners accosted the president to make their anger known.

“You are really bleeding us dry and we have worked all our lives,” one woman told him.

Macron, never one to shy away from an argument with members of the public, tried to explain the budget reform.

“We are not bleeding you dry. We have lowered employee contributions by 30 percent so that working people can pay for your pensions,” he responded.

“Your generation retired at the same age as your parents but with a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years more. I have to take that into account,” he said.

But on Thursday thousands who don't accept Macron's argument will take to the streets in the hope of having their anger heard.

A retired person's pension is not a social allowance or a variable adjustment it is aright that has been earned through work,” said a union spokesman.

Jean-Claude Mailly head of the leftist Force Ouvrière union said: “The President speaks of inter-generational solidarity, but it is not about that. Inter-generational solidarity is the workers that contribute to pay the pensions of retirees and acquire rights for their retirement. Here there is a real loss of purchasing power, ” he said.

“When you touch around  €1,200 euros per month, the loss of  €25 is a lot. It's normal that they are angry,” he added, adding that pensioners were not wealthy.

But Macron has shown that up until he has not backed down from his reforms under the pressure of street protests. So while the country's pensioners will get a chance to express their anger on Thursday. It is unlikely they will convince Macron to change tack.



What are the rules on holiday health cover for pensioners in France?

If you're a pensioner living in France and planning a holiday, then the rules around healthcare can get pretty complicated. Here's what you need to know.

What are the rules on holiday health cover for pensioners in France?
Illustration photo: AFP

Having access to France's lauded healthcare system is seen as a positive, even an incentive, to move here once you're retired. 

But in order to make the most of it, you need to first understand the rules – and they aren't always that clear, as one reader who wrote to us pointed out. 

Gordon Spector, a British retiree living in the south west of France said: “From reading relevant online sites I understood that if I was a member of the French healthcare system with a social security number I (and all Britions in same situation as I in France) would be entitled to apply online to the French 'CEAM' European travel health card.”
Gordon said he believed that as a resident in France, he would not be entitled to the UK's EHIC card. 

Photo: AFP

But somewhat confusingly there are a few exceptions to the rule regarding EHIC vs. CEAM cards. 
The page on the NHS website covering this subjects states that if you live abroad and you:
  • receive a UK State Pension or exportable UK benefit
  • you are a posted or frontier worker
  • or you are living in the EEA and are family member of someone working in the UK
then you need to apply to renew your EHIC by contacting Overseas Healthcare Services. You can find the address under the Living abroad section here, as well as a contact number. 
British pensioners in France are registered with their local health authority in France with an S1 form. 
This form means that the UK is your ‘competent state' – responsible for funding your healthcare. You are affiliated to the French health system via CPAM and receive health care on the same basis as a French national, but the UK reimburses France for your health care costs.
Similarly holding an EHIC card, rather than a CEAM, means that the UK will cover any emergency treatment you need in other EU countries.