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Paris (AFP) – Work more, but for how long? On Tuesday, the government of liberal President Emmanuel Macron unveiled its plan to delay the retirement age in France, a controversial reform rejected by the unions, the left and public opinion in the country.
The pandemic had already forced him to back down from the first attempt at reform in 2020, which sparked massive protests, but he kept his intentions and during the campaign leading up to his re-election in April, he promised to push back the age from 62 to 65.
“This year will be a pension reform aimed at ensuring the balance of our system for the coming years and decades,” Macron, 45, said in his New Year’s address, reiterating his desire for it to be implemented in 2023.
His government considers this reform essential to ensuring a balanced pension system by 2030. His prime minister, Elizabeth Borne, who consulted with social partners this week, will unveil the future plan on Tuesday.
“There is not much suspense: it will be [un retraso de la edad a] 64, together with accelerating “the increase in the duration of contributions to the collection of a full pension,” CFTC union president Cyril Chabanier said after his meeting with Burney.
Also, this scenario does not convince the unions that will meet on Tuesday to set a date for mobilization. “If the legal age is delayed to 64 or 65, the CFDT syndicate will be mobilized,” warned Laurent Berger, President of the French First Centre.
And the left-wing opposition, from environmentalists to the radical wing grouped around the Nobis coalition, is also preparing a street offensive to force the government to back down.
The coalition, which also includes environmentalists and communists, considers that there is no “economic need” for this reform that cuts off “social rights”, because “there is no risk of an insurmountable deficit” in the pension system.
Official figures show the existence of a balanced pension system in the short term, but it is subject to large deficits in the coming decades due to the aging of the population. The average life expectancy is 85.5 years for women and 79.4 years for men.
2023 is “dangerous” for Macron
The retirement age in the second economy of the European Union (EU) is one of the lowest in Europe, and if the reform continues, France will be close to the 67 years adopted or in force in Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom.
Despite it being a reality in neighboring countries, a majority of French people reject a delay in the retirement age: 54% would oppose it versus 44% would support it, according to a Harris Interactive poll published January 2nd.
Even 68% would support, according to another Ifop poll in early January, a return to the age of 60 set by Socialist President François Mitterrand in 1982 and reached by conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010.
To implement the reform, the ruling party hopes to gain the support of the right-wing Los Republianos party, which in recent months has become the pillar of the government to achieve the absolute parliamentary majority it lost in June.
To ultimately avoid parliamentary surprises and obstacles, the government is calling for the use of a mechanism known as 49.3 that allows it to adopt a law without submitting it to a vote. The only way to stop it is to agree to a motion of no confidence.
Macron, according to Labor Minister Olivier Dusopt, is even considering dissolving the National Assembly (the lower house), if this law, which is a symbol of his reform campaign, does not go ahead.
Some fear an outbreak of popular anger like the “yellow vests” that struck his first term. “The rules are there and there is a spark that can burn everything,” Ifop director Frederic Dappy assesses Europe 1 Radio.
In the context of fear of inflation after years of health crisis, the government has tried to defuse tensions in recent weeks, with train drivers or bakers, to avoid a larger protest movement with the future reform.
“The year 2023 looks dangerous for the president,” Adelaide Zulfikarbasic, director general of the French polling institute BVA, told AFP, noting that the French were “tired” after the series of crises.
© 2023 AFP
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