Feb 5, 2023
French PM Offers Concession in Battle Over Pension Reform
(Bloomberg) -- Emmanuel Macron’s government may offer another concession on plans to raise France’s retirement age from 62 to 64, seeking to secure a parliamentary majority amid a massive public backlash.
The government is considering another carve-out so more people can retire before they turn 64, Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said in an interview with the JDD newspaper on Sunday. Debates on the proposal start on Monday at the National Assembly and unions are planning fresh strikes and protests for Tuesday.
The concession offered by Borne would add to other provisions designed to allow people who began working at a young age to retire earlier. If the latest change is accepted by parliament, people who began working between 20 and 21 years old could retire at 63, she said.
The move aims to sway lawmakers from the conservative Republicains party, whose support Macron’s centrist bloc needs for a majority.
“With this bill, as with others, we are looking for agreements,” Borne said in the interview with JDD. “I want to find a majority - that’s what I’ve been working on throughout recent weeks and months.”
Macron’s government is under pressure to rethink the president’s signature economic reform as more people join protests and opinion polls show the French overwhelmingly reject the reform.
His government could still use a constitutional provision known as the 49.3 to proceed without a vote in parliament, but that would risk further stoking anger. Last week, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said getting a majority is a question of “political legitimacy.”
The change to allow more people to retire at 63 would affect around 30,000 people a year in France with an annual cost of between €600 million ($648 million) and €1 billion. The government and parliament will have to find ways of financing the new measure to ensure the pension system still eliminates its deficit by 2030, Borne said.
It’s not clear the proposed changes will be sufficient to sway those currently opposed to the reform. Speaking on France Info radio on Sunday, the deputy leader of the Republicains, Pierre-Henri Dumont, said the concession is not broad enough.
“The fact this door is now closed will oblige us to vote against,” Dumont said.
The leader of the moderate CFDT union, Laurent Berger, also rebuffed Borne’s proposal, saying the change for 30,000 people does not respond to the concerns of hundreds of thousands of workers who will protest again on Tuesday.
“The basic problem of this reform is the increase in the legal age to 64, which accentuates inherent inequalities in the world of work,” Berger said on France Inter radio. “We will examine the proposal, but clearly it’s not a response to the massive, geographically and professionally diverse mobilization.”
In the JDD interview, the Prime Minister also said she is not opposed to a proposal from Macron’s centrist allies to review the pension reform mid-way between its implementation and 2030.
“I don’t see any objection, but we mustn’t lose sight of the course we have set with the president to balance the system by 2030,” Borne said.
(Updates with comments from lawmaker, union leader from 9th paragraph.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.