Macron, unions key to French pension reform showdown

Macron, unions key to French pension reform showdown
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  • Retirement age will be increased from 62 to 64
  • Unions, the left-wing opposition rejected the reforms
  • Dependent on the rights adopted by Parliament

PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) – The French should work two years beyond age 64 before retiring, the government said on Tuesday, announcing changes to an unpopular pension system that immediately prompted unions to call strikes and protests.

The right to retire at a relatively young age is deeply cherished in France and the reform will be a major test of President Emmanuel Macron’s ability to deliver change as social discontent grows. Cost of living.

Passing reforms through parliament will not be easy. Macron’s government has said it is important to keep the pension budget out of the red. Unions argue that the reform is unfair and unnecessary.

“Nothing supports such brutal reforms,” ​​Laurent Berger, leader of the moderate, reform-minded CFDT union, told reporters after trade union leaders agreed to a nationwide strike on January 19, which would set off a series of strikes and demonstrations.

An ODXA survey found that four out of five citizens oppose a higher retirement age.

“I am well aware that the changes to our pension system raise questions and fears among the French,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne said at a news conference a short while ago.

“We offer today a project to balance our pension system, a project that is fair,” he said, adding that France had to face reality.

Overhauling the pension system was a central pillar of Macron’s reformist agenda when he entered the Elysee Palace in 2017. But he postponed his first attempt in 2020 as the government struggled to contain Covid-19.

The second attempt will not be any easier.

“It’s a slap in the face,” said Frédéric Perdriel, 56, during a small protest in the western city of Rennes before Bourne’s announcement. “There are other ways to finance pensions than raising the retirement age.”

“cruel, cruel”

Macron and Bourne must win the support of conservative Les Républiques (LR) lawmakers in the coming months to pass the reforms in parliament.

It looks less challenging than a few weeks ago discount On the retirement age – Macron originally wanted it to be 65 – and a minimum pension.

Olivier Marleix, who leads the LR group in the lower house of parliament, reacted positively to Bourne’s announcement.

“They listened to us,” he said while pleading for more efforts to ensure employment for people nearing retirement age.

Nevertheless, LR is divided on issues, so every vote counts.

The Socialists, the hard-left La France Insumis (France Unbound) and the far-right National Assembly were quick to condemn the reforms. Left-wing lawyer Mathilde Panot called the plan “antiquated, unfair, brutal, cruel”.

“The French can count on our determination to stop this unjust reform,” said far-right Marine Le Pen.

Under government plans, the retirement age will be raised by three months every year from September, to a target of 64 in 2030.

From 2027, eight years earlier than planned in past reforms, a full pension will require 43 years of work.

Other measures aim to raise the employment rate among 60- to 64-year-olds, which is among the lowest among leading industrialized nations.

With one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialized world, France spends more than most countries on pensions, about 14% of economic output, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Leigh Thomas, Stephen Mahe, Tasilo Hummel, Blandine Henault; Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Richard Lowe, Alexandra Hudson, and Josie Cao

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