French Senate passes social security draft budget, revives pensions polemic

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France's Senate has approved the 2021 social security draft budget after adding a controversial article on pensions, with the deficit slated to hit 27.1 billion euros, according to the public accounts ministry.

Before the modifications in the Senate, the bill passed the National Assembly with 190 votes in favour, 106 votes against and 50 abstentions.

As France deals with the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, senators voted to increase health provisions overall.

Retirement age, again

The Senate is dominated by a right-wing opposition and has re-introduced a proposal to extend the retirement age in order to balance the pension system.

It recommends both pushing back the legal retirement age to 63 in 2025 and lengthening of the contribution period for those from the 1965 generation.

However, it remained unclear whether this provision would survive another reading, as the ruling LaREM's leader in the National Assembly, Christophe Castaner, is opposed to changing the retirement age.

The Senate added to their health focus by voting for an additional 800 million euros to cover Covid-19 diagnostic testing for 2020, an increase in resources for the health companies dealing with this, as well as elder care services.

An additional 150 million euros in 2021 and 200 million euros in 2022 will be allocated to increase the salaries of home helpers who deal with the elderly.

The Senate almost unanimously approved the extension of paternity leave from 14 days to 28 days from July 2021, while approving the creation of new birth centres.

It also narrowly approved mandatory third party payment for abortion.

An 18-euro “fixed price” for those sent to the emergency room of a public hospital without admission was also voted.

A joint committee of deputies and senators will meet to agree on a text for the budget, but if that is not achieved, will need to hold a new reading of the budget plan.