FRANCE -French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin took a softly-softly line on pensions reform in a recent speech to the French Economic and Social Council in the wake of union-led demonstrations by more than 300,000 people against pensions reform.
“I heard in the streets the preoccupations of the demonstrators. I understand the complexity of the subject is worrying. If it weren’t so difficult it would have been resolved long ago,” he said.
But he expressed confidence that individual interests would be overcome for the benefit of the whole nation.
Raffarin stressed that the age of retirement at 60 was not under threat. But he added: “It would not be realistic to widen the possibility of retirement before the age of 60.”
He also insisted that more should be done to help people save voluntarily for their own retirement.
On the vexed question of inequality between public and private sector pensions Raffarin was less explicit. The length of the contribution period needs to be addressed, he said, a reference to the current imbalance between public and private sector pensions, where the period of contributions is 37.5 years for public servants against 40 for the private sector.
Civil servants should not be considered privileged, he said, adding: “We must engage in open debate in the spirit of the interests of all.”
But the demographics of French pensions are of grave concern. Active workers to support the retired are in decline. While today there are just over two workers for each retiree, by 2040, there will be just over one.
Raffarin has set a June deadline for a reform programme to be set before Parliament.
Reforms will be progressive, and the year 2020 is the deadline for the programme.
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