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France

Sarkozy to push pension reform after lacklustre protest

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-03

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's planned pension reform gained momentum this weekend, when a May 1 rally against the measure failed to turn out many protesters. Sarkozy is expected to propose raising the retirement age from 60 to 63 by 2030.

 

REUTERS - The French government's plans to reform the costly pension system were given a boost by a lower than expected turnout at weekend protests against the measure.
 
President Nicolas Sarkozy has highlighted pension reform as his priority for this year and has launched consultations with unions and employers that are expected to result in an increase in the retirement age beyond the current 60 years.
 
The traditional May 1 trade union demonstration, which focused on the planned reform, attracted 350,000 people throughout France, according to the CGT trade union. Last year, the number was 1.2 million.
 
Steven Ekovich, a professor at the American University of Paris, said that while poor weather could have affected the turn-out, it could still be seen as a boost for Sarkozy's pension reform programme.
 
"Any low turnout in a protest against the policies of the president has to be a positive for the president," he said.
 
Sarkozy's consultations are intended to smooth the way towards agreement on reform of the pension system, which the government says risks having a deficit of 100 billion euros ($133.2 billion) a year by 2050 unless action is taken quickly.
 
A survey published on Monday in Le Figaro paper said most people in France were worried by the planned changes, but a director at Paris financial firm Global Equities said increasing numbers were beginning to realise that reforms were inevitable.
 
"It's a mathematical problem. If France doesn't pull off the reforms, the credit ratings agencies will target France for a downgrade. We don't really have much choice," said Global Equities director Marc Touati.
 
French unions have said they are completely opposed to raising the legal retirement age. They said they were pleased with Saturday's turnout, despite the drop in numbers, and warned that further protests were likely.
 
Le Monde newspaper said on Monday that Sarkozy was considering raising the legal retirement age to 61 in 2015, 62 in 2020 and 63 in 2030.
 
Labour Minister Eric Woerth called the report "absurd" and said no decision had been taken over the retirement age.
 
However, he added the government's timetable for overhauling the pension system was on track.
 
Woerth said the government aimed to unveil an initial series of proposals in mid-May, ahead of a parliamentary vote in September.
 
Lengthening life expectancy will transform the demographic shape of France -- and other Western countries -- raising the number of old people as a proportion of the population and increasing the burden on an already strained pension system.

 

Date created : 2010-05-03

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