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France

National Assembly approves bill to raise retirement age

Video by Shirli SITBON

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-09-15

France’s National Assembly has approved President Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial pension reform, which will raise the legal retirement age from 60 to 62. Socialists and unions fiercely oppose the bill.

Following a marathon debate that started Tuesday afternoon and continued all night, the French National Assembly on Wednesday approved a law that will raise the legal retirement age in France from 60 to 62. Opposition Socialists had been planning to use delaying tactics to postpone the process, but the vote went ahead at 3pm in Paris.

The controversial bill that will require the French to work longer has been the centrepiece of one of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s key reforms. In the current French retirement system, a person can retire and receive a full pension at the age of 60 if he or she has worked 41 years, with the government redistributing citizens’ income tax money to the retired. Sarkozy’s centre-right Union for a Popular Movement party (UMP) has argued that if France doesn’t raise the retirement age by two years, the country will no longer be able to fund pensions, given the country’s growing deficits and the increasing life expectancy of its senior citizens.

Even at 62, the French retirement age will still be one of the lowest in Europe, where the norm tends to be 65. But Socialists and unions, who staged a massive strike on September 7, have opposed the law vigorously, with Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry calling the retirement issue “a question of justice”.

The debate in the National Assembly has been intense, with Socialists pushing back hard against Labour Minister Eric Woerth, who is in charge of drafting the law and getting it passed. Woerth’s credibility has been compromised by his involvement in the L’Oréal heiress scandal, in which he has faced accusations of accepting illegal donations for the ruling UMP party and helping France's wealthiest woman evade taxes.

Sarkozy himself has seen his poll ratings flounder this summer and his administration has been the target of criticism, not only for the pension reform, but also for new security measures aimed at breaking up illegal camps of Roma in France.

The reform bill will move on to the Senate for further examination next month.

Date created : 2010-09-15

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