The French Senate has approved controversial pension reforms, despite ongoing nationwide protests that have disrupted transport, schools and airports. If a compromise can be agreed, the law could be adopted by Thursday, but unions have called for a “powerful day of strikes and demonstrations” on Wednesday. The government wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, with a full pension requiring 43 years of work by 2027. Official forecasts suggest the pensions will become deficit over time. The reforms are a political test for French President Emmanuel Macron after his liberal party lost its majority last summer.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in French cities over the past weekend to protest against the planned pension reform. The move has galvanized unions, leading to walkouts in sectors including public transport and oil refineries. “I call on parliamentarians to see what’s happening in their districts. … You can’t vote for a reform that’s rejected by so many in the workforce”, said Laurent Berger, who heads France’s largest labor union.
During his election campaign, Macron vowed to reform the French pensions system to bring it in line with pension systems in other European countries. These typically have a retirement age of between 65 and 67. However, unions contend that Macron’s reforms will disproportionately impact those in blue-collar, hazardous or physically demanding work. If adopted, the reforms will represent one of the largest changes to the French pension system in several decades.