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French pension reforms adopted amid protests

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French pension reforms adopted amid protests
Despite nationwide protests, including in Marseille (pictured) France's lower house on Tuesday narrowly adopted the government's hotly-contested pension reforms. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP
17:34 CEST+02:00
France's National Assembly on Tuesday narrowly voted in favour of the Socialist government's controversial pension reform package, with Green and left-wing MPs abstaining from the vote. Thousands marched outside the National Assembly in Paris earlier in the day to protest the reforms.

France's lower house on Tuesday narrowly adopted the government's hotly-contested pensions reform bill, despite the abstention of Green MPs, who are the junior partners in coalition with the Socialists. 

Only Socialist MPs voted for the reforms, but that was enough to produce a 270 to 249 majority, with members from the centre-right UMP, centrist UDI and far-left Left Front voting against the bill, according to French daily Le Figaro.

Radical left-wing MPs also abstained from the ballot.

Earlier on Tuesday, thousands of people marched in Paris to protest against the planned revamp of the debt-ridden pension system.

Similar rallies were held in other cities including Marseille, Toulouse and Lyon.

The protestors in Paris marched to the National Assembly under a banner calling for "the creation of jobs, retirement at 60 and salary increases".

The reforms will now be debated in the Senate, the upper house of parliament, from October 28th.

Pension overhauls are highly contentious in France. Previous attempts in 1995 and 2010 sparked mass protests and costly strikes but the Socialist government's latest reform has not yet met with the same level of resistance.

IN PICTURES: The mass protests that shook France

France is under pressure from the European Union and is seeking to plug holes that will see the generous state pension scheme fall into the red by more than €20 billion ($26.5 billion) by 2020.

The reforms will raise the pay-in period for pension contributions from the current 41.5 years to 43 years by 2035, meaning employees will need to work longer to be eligible for full pensions.

The plan also proposes increasing employee and employer contributions to France's retirement system, but avoids more controversial proposals such as raising the official retirement age from the current level of 62 or slapping a new tax on French retirees.

SEE ALSO: 'We should work less, France produces enough' - Pensions protesters talk to The Local

"The general logic of the reforms, especially the extension of the contribution period ...is socially very regressive," said Thierry Lepaon, the head of the CGT trade union.

Lepaon said the far-right National Front's recent win in a key by-election and projections that it will emerge as the biggest French party in European elections next year was proof of that.

"It's because there is despair," he said.

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