France raising retirement age to 64 to offset pension imbalance

PARIS, 11 Jan 2023:

France’s minimum retirement age could be raised from 62 to 64 years, prime minister Elisabeth Borne has said, as part of proposed pension reforms the French government unveiled yesterday.

The proposed reforms would also mean that, from 2027, workers would need to contribute to their pensions for at least 43 years before they can fully retire.

The objective is to “balance” the system, as retired people’s pensions have to be financed by “active” workers, Borne told a press conference.

Raising the retirement age is “an essential choice to defend the (French) social model and maintain solidarity between the different generations,” she said.

“The deficit is going to grow year after year, to let it grow would be irresponsible, just as it would be even more (irresponsible) to let it grow,” the prime minister said, pointing out that other EU countries have also raised the retirement age.

This deficit is currently expected to reach €13.5 billion in 2030, but the planned changes would raise an additional €17.7 billion, economy minister Bruno Le Maire said.

Shortly after the reforms were unveiled, French unions announced strikes and demonstrations for Jan 19.

“Nothing justifies such a brutal reform,” said Laurent Berger, leader of the French Confederation of Workers (CFDT), adding that unions will work to ensure the proposal “does not enter into force” and the “government backs off”.

The government had previously considered raising the age to 65. But amid strong opposition to those plans, opted for 64 years to facilitate an agreement with the conservative Republican Party.

The reform will also allow people who formally started working before the age of 20 the possibility of early retirement between the ages of 58 and 62.

The prime minister said that reform “will eliminate most of the special contribution regimes”, which are more advantageous than the general system and are often used by public sector companies.

Anticipating fierce opposition to the reforms, both in parliament and in the streets, Borne said she was ready for “a confrontation of ideas, but without stirring up fear and misinformation”.

The two main opposition parties, the far-right National Rally (RN) and the leftist France Insoumise (LFI), were quick to condemn the reforms.

The far-right Marine Le Pen, defeated presidential candidate in 2012, 2017 and 2022, called it “unfair” and said she would seek to block it, while Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the LFI, said the extension of the minimum retirement age represents “a serious social regression.”

– EFE