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May 17, 2021

Anger as French pension age rises from 60 to 62

Sarkoyz signs controversial bill into law.

France’s opposition has attacked President Nicolas Sarkozy for signing into law a reform raising the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, BBC News reported. The nationwide strikes and street protests which accompanied the reform’s passage through parliament made it one of the biggest battles of his career. Sarkozy argued the reform was necessary because of rising numbers of pensioners and greater life expectancy.

But Socialist leader Martine Aubry accused the president of “brutality”. “He thinks that by ploughing ahead regardless he is showing courage,” she said. “[True] courage would have been setting in place a reform which finally settles the pension problem.”

The changes also mean those who want to claim full pension benefits must now wait until the age of 67 instead of 65. The act became law when it was published on Wednesday, a day after being approved by France’s constitutional court.

The measures will come into effect gradually from July of next year, and be fully enacted by 2018. French workers will now have to work 41.5 years to receive a full state pension.

Unlike previous French presidents, Sarkozy stood his ground, refusing to bend in the face of fierce opposition from the streets. His signature on the bill was always a formality, particularly since the parliamentary process had been fast-tracked to successfully draw the heat from the protest.

There is no doubt the passage of the bill is a defining moment in Sarkozy’s presidency – it was a key part of his reform agenda and his credibility was on the line. And his haste in signing the bill into law was surely connected to his burning impatience to reshuffle his cabinet in a bid to improve his own record low approval ratings. Trade unions held an eighth round of rallies and marches in French cities on Saturday but numbers were sharply down on previous demonstrations. Both government and union estimates showed that Saturday’s attendance was about a third that seen in mid-October. Nonetheless, the unions have called another day of action for 23 November.

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