The French Government has proposed raising the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, Belga News Agency has reported.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne claimed that the reforms were necessary to plug France's budget deficit, which, at -6.5% of annual GDP, is one of the highest in the EU.
"I am well aware that changing our pension system raises questions and fears among the French people," Borne said. "[But] we have to be able to face reality and find solutions to preserve our social model."
According to the Government's plan, the legal age of retirement will be increased at a gradual rate of three months each year until 2030, starting from 1 September this year. The Government claims that the scheme will lead to gross annual savings of €17.7 billion by 2030.
Pension reform was one of French President Emmanuel Macron's flagship campaign promises during both the 2017 and 2022 French presidential elections. However, significant public resistance has repeatedly stymied his efforts to raise France's retirement age, which is among the lowest in the EU: a recent poll found that up to 80% of French citizens are opposed to raising the retirement age to 64.
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The Government's announcement drew a strong response from leaders across the political spectrum, with leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon labelling the proposal a "severe social regression", while far-right leader Marine Le Pen described it as "unjust" and promised to block its passage through the French Parliament.
The scheme also induced an angry reaction from French trade unions, many of which have since announced plans to go on strike on 19 January.
"19 January is the launch of mobilisation to stop the reform from coming into action and to make the government back down," Laurent Berger, Secretary General of France’s biggest union (CFDT), said on Tuesday. "Nothing justifies such a brutal reform."