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How long will the French have to work after the reform of the pension system?

The Local France
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How long will the French have to work after the reform of the pension system?
(Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

The planned The French government wants to increase the pension age from 62 to 64 - but this change won't take place overnight, and there are also exemptions for people who started work young and those in certain jobs.


France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has unveiled the government’s long-awaited contentious pension reform, which includes gradually raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030.

The planned reforms prompted criticism and calls for protests from unions, even before they were announced on Tuesday. 

READ ALSO France’s January pension strikes – what services will be affected?

But the key question for most workers in France is - how long will they have to work for?


There are four things that affect this - the worker's age, how long they have worked for, when they plan to retire and whether they work in a job that gives rights to early retirement (such as firefighters, members of the military and other physically strenuous roles).


The headline of the pension reform is raising the pension age from 62 to 64.

In future, workers in France will also have to be employed for 43 years, rather than the current 42, in order to be eligible for a full pension - though police officers, prison guards, air traffic controllers and other public workers in jobs deemed physically or mentally arduous will retain the right to retire earlier, as will anyone who started full-time employment before the age of 20.

The guaranteed minimum pension will be no less than 85 percent of the minimum wage - based on current SMIC levels, that would work out at around €1,200 per month - for new retirees.

So-called “special regimes”, which have different retirement ages and benefits for, among others, rail workers, will end.

Retirement age

But the switch from the current retirement age in France of 62 to 64 won’t occur overnight, so when you plan to retire is crucial. 

Borne said the minimum retirement age to be entitled to a full pension will be gradually increased by three months every year, starting in September 2023. 

Under the proposals, it will be raised gradually by three months every year, starting in September. By 2027 it will reach 63 years and 3 months, and by 2030 it will be at the target age of 64.

Length of career

It should be noted the minimum retirement age applies to people who have worked enough years to qualify. Those who do not fulfil the conditions - women who interrupt their careers to raise children, for example, or those who started their careers later perhaps because they stayed in education longer - may need to work beyond the age of 64. However everyone can retire from the age of 67, even if they don't have the required 43 years of work.

French pensions are calculated on the number of quarters a person has worked and contributed to their pension. Under current rules, anyone who has worked for 42 years in France at age 62 - or 168 quarters - is entitled to a full state pension. From 2030, they will have to work 43 years, or 172 quarters, for the same entitlement.



The changes affect anyone living and working in France who was born from September 1961, those born before 1961 remain on the current system. 

To be entitled to a full state pension, workers born between September and December 1961 must work 169 quarters - or 42 years and three months. 

Those born in 1963 will see their working lives extended to 42 years and six months - or 170 quarters, from the current 168 level.

Anyone born in 1964 under current legislation must work 169 quarters to qualify for a full state pension. Under the proposals, this will increase to 171 quarters - or 42 years and nine months, with the final 172 quarters, or 43 years, affecting everyone born in 1965 or after.

Under current rules, they were already expected to work between 169 and 171 quarters.



As with all systems, there are exceptions - and the main ones are to do with people who started work early and those who work in certain professions.

Certain physically strenuous roles retain the right to earlier retirement - those include police officers, prison guards, air traffic controllers and other public workers in jobs deemed physically or mentally arduous. However many other groups who had early retirement rights for historic reasons - such as train drivers, where the role used to be more physically strenuous - will lose their 'special regimes'.

The other exception is for people who started work early - those who began working before the age of 20 can retire when they have worked the required number of years even if they are not yet 64. 

The retirement age will remain at 58 for those who started working before the age of 16. For those who started between 16 and 18, it will be from 60. And for those who started between 18 and 20, it will be 62. 

What about foreigners or new arrivals?

The above system is based on people who have spent their entire career in France.

But many foreigners in France will have started their career in their home country and then moved to France, or moved around between multiple countries.

EU citizens (and Brits who moved to France before Brexit) have a relatively simple system where their pension contributions in all the EU countries where they have worked are merged into a single 'pot' and paid by the country they are living in when they retire.

For non-EU citizens it is more complicated and is likely to involve claiming a pension in France (which will be smaller than the 'full' pension rate) and a pension from their home country. 


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