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The current economic climate, marked by a rapidly changing employment market, raises questions about how retirement pensions are likely to evolve in years to come. In this article, we examine the impact of career setbacks, such as periods of unemployment, early retirement, part-time working or inactivity, on the retirement pensions of private sector salaried employees. As a general rule, compared with a career in full employment, the replacement rate of the last monthly wage by the first pension payment is always lower when a person’s career has been affected by one of these four setbacks. However, the impact of these setbacks is variable and depends on several factors. When these setbacks are covered by neither state or supplementary pension schemes, their impact depends on their position in the working career, their duration and the generation concerned. In this case, it is the basic state scheme which reduces the replacement rate most significantly, since the best years taken into account for calculating the mean annual salary are affected. Moreover, as a larger number of years is used to calculate the mean annual salary, this effect is more pronounced for generations fully concerned by the reform of 1993. When a career setback is covered by the state scheme alone (validation of corresponding contribution periods), whether or not it occurred during the best years, it is the supplementary pension schemes which bring down the replacement rate. In this case, the supplementary pension is reduced by the number of points that would have been obtained had the person’s activity not been affected. Lastly, when these setbacks are covered by both schemes, their impact depends above all on their position in the person’s career, but also on the way they are taken into account by supplementary schemes. The impact of career setbacks is also linked to career patterns: in particular, the faster a salary increases over a career, the sharper the drop in the replacement rate.

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