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French pension concession off ered

By JONATHAN POWELL | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-02-06 10:13

The French government has shown some willingness to appease opponents of its controversial pension reform plans by off ering a partial concession ahead of the parliamentary debate this week.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Sunday off ered to extend the number of people who started work early to be able to retire early, in a bid to win more support from conservative lawmakers.

Parties on both the left and right have vowed to block the reform, and President Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance has struggled to convince voters of the need for a pension overhaul that includes raising the legal retirement age from 62 to 64.

Since the proposed changes were presented in Parliament on Jan 10, there have been two days of nationwide workers' strikes, and two more are planned on Tuesday and Saturday.

In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, a Sunday newspaper, Borne said there can be no negotiation of raising the minimum legal age of retirement to 64, but said she is prepared to extend the range of socalled "long careers".

"We are going to move by extending the measure for long careers to those who started working at 20 and 21. They will be able to retire at 63," Borne said.

The France24 news service reported that a source of fi nancing would need to be found for such a concession, which could cost up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) per year.

The government needs the support of lawmakers from the conservative Republicans party to make up a majority that would allow the reform to be pushed through, Borne said.

The Agence France-Presse news agency reported that Republicans leader Eric Ciotti had earlier told Le Parisien newspaper that the concession would be enough to "secure a very large majority" of his members of Parliament.

Since his election in 2017, Macron has emphasized the reform was needed to avoid having to reduce the size of the state pension that is available to all French workers. Macron's alliance lost its parliamentary majority in June, making it even more diffi cult for the government to get reforms passed.

An estimated half a million people took to the streets of Paris on Tuesday amid the latest round of nationwide protests against the pension changes and wider economic policies which are seen by many people as unfair.

A previous eff ort to force through pension reforms three years ago resulted in a wave of strikes, before the government abandoned the move amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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