PM Borne offers to tweak contested pension reform to secure votes from the right

By Alison Hird - RFI
FEB 5, 2023 LISTEN

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has offered to soften the government's controversial pension overhaul by extending the number of people who started work early to be able to retire early – a measure designed to win conservatives support as MPs begin discussing the bill on Monday.

President Emmanuel Macron's government is seeking to raise the retirement age two years to 64 and extend the period workers have to pay in. This is necessary, it argues, to keep the system out of the red in the coming years.

Polls show a majority of the French oppose the measure and both leftwing parties and the hard-right have vowed to block the reform.

France's 577-member parliament begins debating the draft legislation for the first time on Monday.

Since Macron's party lost its absolute majority in parliamentary elections last year, the government needs votes from a good number of rightwing Republicans (LR) to get the reform passed.

Prime Minister Borne could use a constitutional tool to bypass a parliamentary vote, but this is unpopular and she says she is not favourable.

LR has long supported raising the retirement age, but there are doubts over how many of their 62 MPs will back the government in the end. 

Under the current draft of the reform, people who started to work before 20 would be allowed to continue to leave the workforce before the age of 64. Borne says this would impact four out of 10 workers.

LR says this doesn't go far enough and has tabled an amendment demanding the measure apply to those who started work before the age of 21.

On Sunday, Borne said she "heard their demands".
"We are going to move by extending the measure for long careers to people who started working between 20 and 21. They will be able to retire at 63," she said in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche Sunday newspaper.

The measure would affect up to 30,000 people she said and cost up to 1bn euros per year, meaning an extra source of financing would have to be found.

The government has faced two days of nationwide strikes since it presented the reform on 10 January and unions have planned another on Tuesday 11 February.

Unions insist the government must abandon the proposed increase in the legal age of retirement altogether, but PM Borne says it will not budge on that point.

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