French PM unveils pension changes that upset many workers

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PARIS (TBEN) — French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will unveil a highly sensitive pension reform on Tuesday aimed at raising the retirement age, which has already sparked fierce criticism and calls for protests from left-wing opponents and unions.

The minimum age to be entitled to a full pension is expected to be gradually raised from 62 to 64 or 65, in line with a long-standing commitment by President Emmanuel Macron. Details will be released by Borne at a press conference.

The cabinet states that the French are living longer than before and must therefore work longer to make the pension system financially sustainable. All French employees receive a state pension.

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Center-left and hard-left trade unions unanimously expressed their disapproval of the proposed changes after talks with Borne last week.

Some are in favor of an increase in payroll taxes paid by employers.

The country’s eight main unions will meet on Tuesday to set the date of a first day of protest against the pension changes.

A heated debate is also to be expected in parliament.

Macron’s centrist alliance lost its parliamentary majority last year – and most opposition parties oppose the changes.

Macron’s lawmakers hope to ally with members of the conservative party The Republicans to pass the measure. Otherwise, the government can use a special power to force the law through parliament without a vote — at the cost of much criticism.

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The pension reform is an election promise made by Macron, who failed to implement a similar measure during his first term in office. The proposal sparked nationwide strikes and protests at the time, before the COVID-19 crisis led the government to delay the changes. Macron was re-elected for a second term last year.

The French Retirement Guidance Council released a report last year showing that the pension system is expected to be in short supply over the next ten years, with the government having to compensate.

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The minimum retirement age applies to people who have worked enough years to qualify. Those who do not meet the conditions, such as many women who interrupt their careers to raise their children and people who have studied for a long time and started their careers late, must work until the age of 67 to retire without penalty.

The average pension this year is 1,400 euros per month ($1,500 per month) after taxes. But that average masks differences between pension plans depending on occupations.

Over the past three decades, French governments have made numerous changes to the system, but each reform has been met with massive demonstrations.