Macron’s pension reform: Necessary changes to an unsustainable system?

© Gonzalo Fuentes, AFP

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne is set to announce the French government’s pension reform plans on Tuesday, proposals that are likely to continue to prompt controversy. President Emmanuel Macron insists the reforms are needed to salvage a system that is unsustainable in its current form. But many are not convinced.

The president and the prime minister have been taking turns defending the pension reform plans in media interviews, saying they are urgently needed to salvage a failing system.

“If we don’t enact these reforms, the current system is in danger,” Macron told TF1 in early December. Macron even used his traditional New Year’s Eve address to say the measures must be enacted to make sure France’s pension system is financially viable for “decades to come”.

The centrepiece of the legislation will be raising the retirement age from 62 to as late as 65 or face having monthly payouts curtailed – a proposal that both the political opposition and unions find particularly galling, and which has led to widespread protests and strikes.

Previous rounds of pension reform are already being implemented. The Touraine reform, voted in under Macron’s predecessor François Holland, gradually extends the amount of time people must pay into the system to 43 years (for those born in or after 1973) before they can retire on a full pension.

A byzantine system

But some of the government’s own agencies refute Macron’s claims that the current system would be moribund without urgent action.


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