France struggles to defuse claims that pension reform will penalise women

© Thomas Samson / AFP

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has been noisily heckled by the opposition benches as she attempted to assure the house that there was no question women would be penalised more than men under the government's already controversial proposals for pension reform.

A government document on the impact of the proposed changes shows that women will, indeed, be obliged to work longer than men in order to reduce the pension imbalance between the sexes.

Confronted with the government's own findings, minister Franck Riester was obliged to admit that "women would be slightly penalised by the increase in the retirement age" from 62 to 64, as proposed by the unpopular legislation.

That started the fire on which the left-wing opposition attempted to grill Elisabeth Borne, accusing the prime minister of promoting an anti-woman reform.

"I cannot allow it to be said that our proposals will not protect the interests of women," the prime minister said, in response to a claim by socialist MP Mélanie Thomin that women would be "most heavily penalised" by the changes.

Under a noisy barrage of verbal abuse, Borne assured parliament that the reform "will reduce the unacceptable gap between men and women at the moment of retirement.

"We are protecting women who have broken or incomplete professional careers," the PM continued. "As well as those who started working early.

"Women will be the first to benefit from the boost to small pensions.

"And the reform will help to reduce the pension gap between men and women."

Elisabeth Borne then appealed to the opposition to stop makling false accusations but to use the parliamentary debate "to enrich the proposed changes".

Government under additional pressure

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