France opens up to possible changes in pension reform

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The French Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, was willing on Saturday to introduce changes in the controversial pension reform during the parliamentary process of the government project.

“There will be a parliamentary debate, which is a framework in which the project may vary. We are looking for compromises and agreements,” Borne said in an interview on France Inter radio.

The project, presented last Tuesday, plans to increase the minimum retirement age from the current 62 years to 64 by 2030, and advances to 2027 (compared to the initial plan of 2035) the need to contribute 43 years to achieve the maximum pension, from the current 42.

Asked about the day of strikes and protests called for next Thursday by the main unions, which has been supported by leftist parties, the head of the Government acknowledged that she understands that the reform causes “concern” among the French, but responded that “a deficit system also generates concern.”

Borne insisted on the government’s argument that the pension system in its current situation “is deficient,” so the reform seeks to “ensure the survival of our pay-as-you-go system.”

Failure to do so “would inevitably lead to a reduction in pensions or a tax increase, or to the end of the pay-as-you-go system and a capitalization system,” he predicted.

Therefore, “it is necessary to work longer progressively,” he insisted, although he admitted that he is “aware of what it means for many French.”

But he stressed that the reform will provide funds to revalue the lowest pensions, which will benefit above all “the 30% of French people with more modest incomes.”

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Faced with the voices that ask to use the reserve fund to stop the pension hole, he argued that this fund “is not made to fill a structural deficit”, and recalled that in France there are currently 1.7 contributors for each pensioner, compared to 2.1 in 2002 and 1.5 that are expected for 2040.

One problem facing the plan is that France is one of the European countries with the lowest activity rate among people aged 55 to 64, only 56% according to the Ministry of Economy.

“We lose the skills of these seniors and their ability to generate collective wealth,” lamented the prime minister, who stressed that she will work with companies with incentives to try to increase the activity rate in that age group.

However, he acknowledged that it is “complicated” to sanction companies that do not employ enough older workers.

In the face of the parliamentary discussion, the government bloc has almost assured the support of the conservative party The Republicans, which would guarantee the majority in both houses, but the prime minister did not rule out getting more support.

“My goal is to convince the French that this reform is fair and offers social improvements,” he summarized.

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