The French should work two years longer before they can retire, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said, detailing an unpopular reform of the pension system that risks strikes and will test President Emmanuel Macron’s ability to deliver change.
The long-delayed overhaul pushes the retirement age to 64, a move opposed by four in every five citizens according to an Odoxa poll, at a time when many are already struggling with a cost-of-living crisis.
“I’m well aware that changing our pension system raises questions and fears among the French,” Borne said on Tuesday, adding that her government would work on convincing the French that the reform was necessary.
“We offer today a project to balance our pension system, a project that is fair,” she said.
Overhauling the pension system was a central pillar of Macron’s reformist agenda when he entered the Elysee Palace in 2017. But he shelved his first attempt in 2020 as the government battled to contain the COVID outbreak.
The second attempt will not be any easier.
The heads of France’s leading unions will meet in the evening to discuss responding with protests and strikes.
Macron and Borne will also need to get the reform adopted in parliament, where they do not have an absolute majority.
That looks less challenging than it did a few weeks ago after the government made some concessions to the conservative Les Republicains (LR) party. Even so, LR did not get all it wanted and it is not united on the issue, so every vote will count.
With one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialised world, France spends more than most other countries on pensions at nearly 14% of economic output, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In practice, according to the government’s proposal, the age at which one can retire and get a pension in France will be raised gradually by three months per year, starting this September, reaching 63 years and 3 months in 2027 and the target age of 64 in 2030.
To receive a full pension, it will be necessary, from 2027, to have worked 43 years.
“We must face reality and find solutions to preserve our social model,” Borne said, stressing that France’s neighbours in Europe have also increased the retirement age over the past years.
Mathilde Panot, from the left-wing France Unbowed (France Insoumise) party tweeted that the plan was “archaic, unfair, brutal, cruel.”