French President Emmanuel Macron said that he will continue a reform of the country’s pension system that started before the Covid-19 pandemic, as soon as the health situation permits it. Unions are calling for any changes to be put off until after next year’s presidential election, though Macron has indicated his government will find ways to move forward before the end of his term.
In a televised address Monday evening in which he announced new measures to push people to get vaccinated against Covid, Macron revived his campaign pledge to overhaul France’s pension system, which he considers to be too complicated and too expensive.
"Our pension system is unfair. We will need to go towards more simplicity, more fairness," Macron said in the address, which took on the tone of a campaign speech. "We will have to work longer and take our retirement later."
Pension reform was a central pillar of Macron's election campaign, and he was working on pushing in through parliament just days before he put the country into Covid lockdown.
The initial proposal would have replaced 42 different pension regimes with a universal, points-based system, with incentives to retire later, though it stopped short of pushing forward the legal retirement age, which is currently 62 years old.
The plan angered unions and many employees, and provoked weeks of protests and transport strikes. It was close to passing when Macron ordered France into lockdown in March 2020, and put off the reform.
Before, or after the 2022 election?
On Monday Macron said he would revive the reform when the pandemic is under control, without specifying when it would be in relation to the presidential election, which has been set for April 2022.
He asked the government to start holding discussions with unions as early as September
In June Macron had raised the prospect of revising the original proposal, saying that the “universal system” would not be implemented as it was conceived, though adding that “nothing is excluded”
One of the options under review is an increase the legal retirement age by two years to 64, and an increase in the minimum state pension to 1,000 euros a month.
Reviving the reform could re-ignite social unrest ahead of the presidential election. All unions have made it clear they do not want a reform before then.
After r last week, Laurent Berger, the head of CFDT, France’s largest union, urged the president to concentrate on France's post-pandemic rather than pensions.
"Let's focus on the recovery… There are people falling by the wayside: young people, the long-term unemployed, people in poverty," he told France public radio, warning that his union would call for protests after the summer holidays if Macron did not listen.