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Macron and unions headed for a clash over France’s pension reform

Macron and unions headed for a clash over France’s pension reform

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  • The retirement age will be increased from 62 to 64 years
  • The unions, the left opposition reject the reform
  • Admission to parliament depends on the right

PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) – French people must work two more years to reach 64 before retiring, the government said on Tuesday, announcing an unpopular reform of the pension system that immediately prompted union calls for strikes and protests.

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

Passing the reform in parliament will not be easy. Macron’s government says it is vital that the pension budget is not in the red. Unions say the reform is unfair and unnecessary.

“Nothing justifies such a brutal reform,” Laurent Berger, leader of the moderate, reform-minded CFDT union, told reporters after union leaders agreed to a national strike on January 19 that will kick off a series of strikes and protests.

An Odoxa survey showed that four out of five citizens are against a higher retirement age.

“I am aware that changing our pension system raises questions and fears among the French,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said at a press conference shortly before.

“We are proposing today a project to balance our pension system, a project that is fair,” she said, adding that France must face reality.

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

The second attempt 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 Bourne’s announcement. “There are other ways to fund pensions than raising the retirement age.

“BRUTAL, CRUEL”

Macron and Bourne will need to win support among conservative Les Republicains (LR) MPs in the coming months to push the reform through parliament.

This seems less challenging than it did a few weeks ago discounts on the retirement age – Macron initially wanted it to be 65 – and a minimum pension.

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

“We were heard,” he said, and called for more efforts to provide employment for people close to retirement age.

However, LRs are divided on the issue, so every vote counts.

The Socialists, the hard-left La France Insoumise (Unyielding France) and the far-right National Union quickly denounced the reform. Left-wing MP Mathilde Panot described the plan as “archaic, unfair, brutal, cruel”.

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

Under the government’s plan, the retirement age will rise by three months a year from September, reaching a target age of 64 in 2030.

From 2027, eight years earlier than planned in past reforms, you will need to have worked for 43 years to receive a full pension.

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 also spends more than most countries on pensions at nearly 14 percent of economic output, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pinault, Lee Thomas, Stephan Mahe, Tassilo Hummel, Blandin Hinault; screenplay by Ingrid Melander; editing by Richard Lough, Alexandra Hudson and Josie Cao

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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