France hit by travel woes amid pension reform strikes – DW – 01/31/2023


France was bracing for a second nationwide strike on Tuesday in a backlash against the government’s plans to push up the retirement age to 64.

More than 1 million people marched during the first round of protests on January 19 and workers’ unions were expecting a similar turnout for the latest action.

The actions come as lawmakers debate the bill at parliamentary committee level.

Disruptions and major transport blockages were expected, with only one in about three high-speed TGV trains ruining, and very few local and regional trains operational. The Paris metro was also expected to be severely disrupted.

National carrier Air France said it expected to cancel one in 10 short and medium-haul services, but that long-distance flights would not be affected. About half of all nursery and primary school teachers were to strike, the main teachers’ union Snuipp-FSU said.

What is the new plan?

Opinion polls show a majority of French people oppose the reform, but President Emmanuel Macron and his government appear intent on standing their ground. Macron says the reform is important to keep the pension system running.

The government’s plan envisages raising the retirement age gradually from 62 to 64 by 2030 and increasing the number of years needed to pay into the system to obtain a full pension from 42 to 43.

All people in retirement in France receive a state pension — currently around €1,400 ($1,500) per month on average —  funded by contributions from those still in the workforce. The new plan aims to provide a minimum pension of €1,200 per month.

The system is now in jeopardy owing to the aging population, with more and more retirees backed by fewer and fewer contributors.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne says the 64 threshold is “non-negotiable”, but the government is exploring ways to offset some of the impacts, in particular on women.

Labor ministry estimates said pushing back the retirement age by two years and extending
the pay-in period would yield an additional €17.7 billion ($19.18 billion) in annual pension contributions. This would allow the system to break even by 2027.

However, unions say there are other ways to break even, such as taxing the super-rich or asking employers or financially privileged pensioners to contribute more.

tg/rc (AFP, Reuters)


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