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Macron's surprise new idea for reforming the French pensions system

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Macron's surprise new idea for reforming the French pensions system
Will the new idea avoid more public protests? Photo: AFP

Faced with the need to reform the retirement system but the likelihood of public protests from angry pensioners, French president Emmanuel Macron has come up with a new idea that he hopes will please everyone.


The reform of France's retirement system is currently one of the most burning issues for the government.

Economic realities and longer lifespans means that France's generous retirement system needs an overhaul, but the current retirement age of 62 is one of the great sacred cows of the country - previous French presidents attempting to tamper with it have retreated hastily in the face of massive public opposition.


Don't mess with French pensioners. Placard reads 'Macron, thief - give me back my pension'. Photo: AFP

Macron made it a campaign promise that he would not raise the legal retirement age, but even with that guarantee protests are already planned for mid-September over an earlier announcement of changes to the system.

But now Macron has served up a new twist - declaring himself in favour of pensions calculated on how long people work, rather than their age.

So the earlier you start work - the earlier you get to retire.

In his interview on France 2, Emmanuel Macron argued: ''I would rather have a calculation based on the duration of contributions than on age.

"Because if you work on the time you contributed, when you begin your career late, you retire later. If you begin early, you leave early.'' 

The head of state branded this system ''fairer'' than his previous idea.

Before leaving for his summer holidays, Macron had declared that he was in favor of an âge pivot, meaning a fixed age for people to retire. In France, the legal retirement age is set at 62 and the âge pivot would have been set at 64.

The âge pivot principle gave workers the choice of retiring at 62, but offered incentives to people who worked until they were 64.

Those who would decide to retire before turning 64 would see their pension reduced by 5 percent per year of early departure. The contrary would also been true for those who chose to leave after 64.

French president Emmanuel Macron explains his new pensions idea to journalists. Photo: France 2

The compromise was widely seen in France as a way of the president attempting to get out of his campaign promise not to raise the legal age from 62.

The president will doubtless hope that his new idea will move the conversation away from retirement age, but it has already been criticised by some of his political opponents for penalising people who choose higher education, and therefore start work later.

 Eric Woerth, former minister of Labour under Nicolas Sarkozy, said on LCI: 'If you want to retire early, do not study', this is what [the president] is saying."

The debate on retirement age is part of a wider reform to the French pension system, which also includes simplifying the current highly complex system which has 42 different pension regimes.

Under the new plans private and State employees will be treated the same as far as pensions go, but there would still be exemptions for people in certain very physically demanding roles to retire earlier.

concertation citoyenne, or public consultation, should be organised in the upcoming weeks in town halls, unions and even on the internet for French people to give their opinion on the government's proposals.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will also participate in some public meetings on the matter.


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Anonymous 2019/08/29 22:37
I have always thought that time in further education after school should be included as time working when calculating state pensions. This could possibly be limited to a fixed number of years for a first degree, Masters, PhD and so on, though you would have to be careful with people like doctors, whose study time can be very long.

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