Macron plans to raise French retirement age to 65

Emmanuel Macron plans to raise the retirement age in France to 65 if he is elected for a second term, government spokesman Gabriel Attal has confirmed, reopening a contentious issue that sparked widespread strikes in 2019.

Macron plans to raise French retirement age to 65
Pensions have been the cause of numerous protests in France in recent years, including this one in October 2021 in Bordeaux. (Photo: Philippe Lopez / AFP)

The president had declared in December that he wanted the French to “work longer”, and has repeated the message twice, firstly in his open letter to the French people in which he finally declared his candidacy for the Elysée, and secondly at a meeting involving a number of elected officials who had signed letters of sponsorship in his favour to allow him to run for a second term.

According to one person at that meeting, Macron said that he intended to bring “an ambitious pension reform for a social model that holds, […] but which also requires an investment for solidarity between generations and a project for the ‘autonomy’.”

And Attal confirmed the progressive pull back of the retirement age in an interview on RTL this morning.

The current official retirement age in France is 62, although workers in many industry including train drivers have ‘special regimes’ that allow them to retire earlier, in some cases from 55.

During his first term, Macron proposed a reform that simplified the system and got rid of the special regimes. Retirement age remained at 62, although a full pension was only granted from 64. 

Approved by Parliament despite two months of protests and strikes in 2019, the changes were in the end not rolled out because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO Macron: No pension reform in France before elections

But now-candidate Macron is set to push on with his plans and in fact expand them – including adding three years on to the working life of most French people, a policy in line with that of Presidential rival Valérie Pécresse.

President of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand, who will represent Emmanuel Macron during an audition of candidates before the CFDT on Thursday, is set to outline the plans in more detail.

Macron’s campaign team promised that pensions would be simplified under the reforms: the transition to 65 years will be rolled out over a 10-year period, and will be accompanied by a number of other reforms, including a new minimum pension of €1,100 per month for those who have a full work history.

In addition, Emmanuel Macron wants to remove “the main special regimes” including those of workers at RATP or EDF, Le Figaro has reported.

The paper added that France’s pensions bill was €327.9 billion in 2019, or 13.5 percent of GDP, and the pension pot was in deficit to the tune of €18 billion in 2020.

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What now for France’s public service broadcasters after TV licence axed?

Questions remain over the future of France’s public service broadcasters after bill abolishing annual €138 licence fee leaves future funding plans for the broadcasters vague.

What now for France's public service broadcasters after TV licence axed?

Households in France will no longer have to pay for an annual TV licence after parliament approved scrapping the annual €138 per household charge, meaning that this November the usual tax bill will simply not arrive.

The measure is part of a €65 billion package of financial aid to help people cope with the spiralling cost of living.

Revealed: What will you get from the cost-of-living package?

But abolishing the TV licence was not without its critics, while questions remain over the future funding of France’s public service broadcasters.

The €138 annual fee has been used to finance the TV and radio channels in the public sector.

It raises €3.7 billion a year – 65 percent of which is allocated to France Télévisions, 15.9 percent to Radio France, 7.5 percent to Arte, 7 percent to France Médias Monde, 2.4 percent to audiovisual archive agency INA and 2.1 percent to TV5 Monde, a Senate report revealed.

TV licence funding currently supplies about half of the total turnover of France Télévisions, while the rest comes from advertising.

Proposing the licence fee cut, president Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to define a budget “with multi-year visibility”, with fixed financing amounts. But, no long-term concrete plans are currently in place.

The government has said there is no question of public service broadcasters losing money, insisting it will replace the licence fee “euro for euro” with public subsidies financed by VAT. 

This model, however, is guaranteed only to the end of 2024 – after which the government will have to present different financing strategies to Parliament.

Despite the bill passing, Senators lined-up to criticise the absence of a concrete long-term funding strategy.

Les Républicains’ Jean-Raymond Hugonet said the plans were being pushed through too quickly for populist reasons and argued it was a change that should have come with a definitive public broadcasting strategy. 

Socialist senator David Assouline said Malak had “hailed the glory” of French public broadcasting but was “creating the conditions to weaken it”.

Assouline has long been a critic of the plan. “From the moment there is no more dedicated funding and we have to draw from the general state budget, we will end up being told that it all costs too much and that we have to cut expenses, close a channel, or even, as we already hear sometimes, privatise,” he told a demonstration against the plans in July.

Concerned staff at France Télévisions and Radio France went on strike at the end of June in protest at the changes, saying that getting rid of the fee amounted to a “threat” to the independence of the channels in question. 

Unions and cultural experts have expressed concern about the possibility that broadcasters’ independence would be eroded if financing was at the whim of the government of the time. Bruno Patino, the head of Arte France, has told AFP that he feared for his channel’s future if the funding model changed.

Another critic, cultural economist Françoise Benhamou told Le Monde: “The disadvantage of budgeting is that we are much less protected from the vagaries of politics, since the latter decides on the budget.”

And LFI MP and journalist Clémentine Autain said in July: “This is a highly political and dangerous measure. Democracy needs a strong public audiovisual service, with a fair financing system that guarantees independence.”