PARIS (AP) — French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is due to unveil on Tuesday a very sensitive pension overhaul aimed at pushing back the retirement age that has already drawn strong criticism and calls for protests from opponents on the left and labor unions.
The minimum retirement age to be entitled to a full pension should be gradually raised from 62 to 64 or 65, in line with a long-standing commitment by President Emmanuel Macron. Details are to be released by Borne at a press conference.
The government argues that the French are living longer than before and therefore need to work longer to make the pension system financially sustainable. All French workers receive a state pension.
Centre-left and far-left unions expressed unanimous disapproval of the proposed changes after talks with Borne last week.
Some are more in favor of an increase in employee contributions paid by employers.
The country’s eight main labor unions are meeting on Tuesday to set the date for a first day of protest against pension changes.
A heated debate in parliament is also to be expected.
Macron’s centrist alliance lost its parliamentary majority last year – and most opposition parties are opposed to the changes.
Macron’s lawmakers hope to join forces with members of the conservative Les Républicains party to push through the measure. Alternatively, the government can use a special power to force the law through parliament without a vote – at the cost of much criticism.
Pension reform is an election promise from Macron, who failed to implement a similar measure in his first term. The proposal at the time sparked nationwide strikes and protests, before the COVID-19 crisis caused the government to postpone the changes. Macron was re-elected for a second term last year.
France’s Pensions Advisory Council published a report last year showing that the pension system is expected to run into a deficit over the next decade, with the government having to compensate.
The minimum retirement age applies to people who have worked enough years to be eligible. Those who do not meet the conditions, such as many women who interrupt their careers to raise their children and those who have had a long education 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 have been deducted. But this average hides differences between pension schemes depending on the profession.
Over the past three decades, French governments have made many changes to the system, but each reform has sparked mass protests.