- The retirement age will be raised from 62 to 64
- Unions and left opposition reject the reform
- Adoption in parliament depends on the right
PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) – The French should work two more years until age 64 before retiring, the government said on Tuesday, announcing an unpopular reform of the pension system that immediately prompted unions to call strikes and protests.
The right to retire at a relatively early age is highly prized in France and the reform will be an important test of President Emmanuel Macron’s ability to bring about change as social unrest in the country grows. cost of living.
The parliamentary process of the reform will not be easy. The Macron government says it is vital to keep the pension budget out of the red. The unions argue that the reform is unfair and unnecessary.
“Nothing justifies such a brutal reform,” Laurent Berger, leader of the moderate and reformist CFDT union, told reporters after union leaders agreed to a nationwide strike on January 1. 19, which will start a series of strikes and protests.
An Odoxa poll showed that four out of five citizens are opposed to a higher retirement age.
“I am very aware that changing our pension system creates doubts and fears among the French,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne had said at a press conference shortly before.
“We offer today a project to balance our pension system, a project that is fair,” he said, adding that France had to face reality.
Reforming the pension system was a central pillar of Macron’s reform agenda when he entered the Elysee Palace in 2017. But he shelved his first attempt in 2020 as the government struggled to contain COVID-19.
The second try won’t be any easier.
“It’s one slap after another,” Frederic Perdriel, 56, said during a small protest in the western city of Rennes before Borne’s announcement. “There are other ways to finance pensions besides raising the retirement age.”
Macron and Borne will need to win the support of conservative Les Republicains (LR) lawmakers in the coming months to pass the reform through parliament.
That seems less challenging than a few weeks after concessions on the retirement age – Macron had originally wanted it to be 65 – and a minimum pension.
Olivier Marleix, who heads the LR group in the lower house of parliament, reacted positively to Borne’s announcements.
“They listened to us,” he said, while calling for more efforts to guarantee employment for people close to retirement age.
Even so, LR is divided on the issue, so every vote counts.
Socialists, the far-left La France Insoumise (Untamed France) and the far-right National Rally were quick to denounce the reform. Left-wing lawmaker Mathilde Panot called the plan “archaic, unfair, brutal, cruel.”
“The French can count on our determination to block this unjust reform,” said far-right Marine Le Pen.
Under the government plan, the retirement age will be raised three months a year starting in September, reaching the target age of 64 in 2030.
As of 2027, eight years earlier than planned in past reforms, it will be necessary to have worked 43 years to collect the full pension.
Other measures aim to boost the employment rate among people aged 60 to 64, which is one of the lowest among major industrialized nations.
With one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialized world, France also outspends most countries on pensions at almost 14% of economic output, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Leigh Thomas, Stephane Mahe, Tassilo Hummel, Blandine Henault; written by Ingrid Melander; edited by Richard Lough, Alexandra Hudson and Josie Kao
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