Millions protest at retirement age rise

Published on Morning Star, by Bill Benfield, Sept. 23, 2010.

… President Sarkozy has indicated he is willing to make marginal concessions but remains intransigent on increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62 and pushing back the age from 65 to 67 for full retirement benefits.

As baby boomers reach retirement age and life expectancy increases in France, the conservative government insists it must raise the retirement age so the pension system can break even by 2018. 

But the opposition sees retirement at 60 as a sacred symbol of France’s social welfare system and says the reform should make more exceptions for certain categories of workers.

“We must use all the means, all the means at our disposal to put pressure on the government,” said the country’s Socialist Party head Martine Aubry.

“We say the pension reform is unfair.”

She admitted that France had to take into consideration the increase in life expectancy.

“But we also think that those who started working very young, or those who had a hard job must still be able to retire at 60,” said Ms Aubry.

A poll in Liberation suggested that 63 per cent of respondents supported the strikers, while just 29 per cent of those polled supported the government.

Almost 60 per cent opposed the plan to raise retirement age, with only 37 per cent in favour.

Some unions at the SNCF railway have already called for further strikes.

France’s lower house of parliament has approved the pension reform, which goes to debate in the Senate soon. (full text).

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