Emmanuel Macron Wants to Raise the French Retirement Age

(Photo credit: Jacques Paquier/Flickr)

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Emmanuel Macron wants French workers to be more hardcore, if not quite Musk-level hardcore.

On Tuesday, the French President committed le sin cardinale of demanding his citizens, you know, work a little more, when he presented a plan to gradually raise the country’s minimum retirement age from 62 to the ripe old age of 64 by 2030. Heavy is the head that wields such power…

Let Them Eat Cake (With Dentures)

France has already spent the past year on edge, with inflation hovering around 6% — the highest mark since 1985. But that hasn’t stopped Macron from his tightrope walk of attempting to deliver some 400 tiny blows to the nation’s incredibly labor-friendly work laws without triggering a fourth revolution. Now, the centrist politician is returning to the frontlines of pension reform, a battle he walked away from in December 2019 after his proposals triggered the longest labor strike in modern French history. Again, Macron is proposing a multipronged rethinking of pension policies that would bump the retirement age up two years and streamline the nation’s 42 pension plans into a universal system.

While France’s pension program looks in good health right now — with an expected €3.2 billion profit in 2022, according to a recent pension advisory panel report — the nation’s aging population means the system is likely to start losing money this year. Unions are already threatening resistance, and Macron, without a unified government after his Renaissance party lost control of France’s lower parliamentary house in June, will likely have to make a few concessions to pass the legislation:

  • Macron has already lowered his proposed retirement age from the 65-years-old threshold he campaigned on, though to win critical votes from conservative Les Républicains in the National Assembly he may have to settle for a slower ramp-up that would set the retirement age at 63 in 2027 and 64 in 2032, analysts tell The Wall Street Journal.
  • Les Républicains are also likely to demand increased minimum pension payouts of €1,200 per month, an increase over the €953.45 per month checks currently sent out to retired French seniors.

To make peace with unions, Macron may also allow workers in physically demanding jobs to continue to retire by 62, though the measure is unlikely to quell labor unrest. “If for Emmanuel Macron, this is the mother of all reforms, then for us it will be the mother of all battles,” Frédéric Souillot, the general secretary of the union Force Ouvrière, ominously told WSJ.

European Vacation: So just how generous are France’s labor laws? The equally labor-adverse Italians still have to work until their 67th birthday, while UK and German citizens can retire at 66. Meanwhile, in Sweden, the retirement age remains at 62. But even within the Élysée, there is a seeming lack of fairness: should the move be ratified, the 45-year-old Macron would have almost two decades until retirement, while his wife is already five years ahead of the game at the age of 69.