France's Macron defends unpopular pensions reform

AFP , Tuesday 21 Feb 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday defended his government's hotly contested pensions overhaul in rare comments about the topic.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with a worker during a visit at the Rungis International Market, in Rungis, southern suburb of Paris, on February 21, 2023. AFP


"Everybody has common sense," he told journalists as he toured the fresh meat section of the massive Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris.

"On the whole, people know that everybody has to work a little longer on average, otherwise we won't be able to properly fund our pensions," he said.

"If we don't create wealth, we cannot then distribute it."

Hundreds of thousands of people have gone on strike or taken to the street on five separate occasions in recent weeks to protest against the proposed changes.

They include increasing the age of retirement to 64 from 62 and raising the number of years of contributions required to receive a full pension.

The government has argued the changes are necessary to lift France's pensions system out of deficit by 2030.

But Macron, who put the overhaul at the centre of his re-election campaign last year, has largely remained quiet on the topic.

A stormy debate in parliament on the draft bill ended on Friday without even reaching a discussion on its contentious Article 7 on raising the retirement age.

The proposal is next to be examined in the Senate.

At one of the largest gatherings in late January, more than 1 million protested across the country, the interior ministry said.

Fewer demonstrators took part in rallies on Thursday last week, but unions said they were merely aiming to keep up the momentum ahead of a mass walkout planned for March 7.

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