It’s time for the French to work longer and retire later

By Lionel Laurent

09 Jan 2023 · 3 min read

In France, a battle to reform pension laws is part of a wider economic struggle across Europe to support aging populations. Failure would be disastrous, writes Bloomberg columnist Lionel Laurent.

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Emmanuel Macron's government is set to unveil the details of what was once called the "mother of all reforms" - a pensions overhaul to require the French to work longer and retire later. The timing is risky, with the threat of social unrest already rising from the impact of inflation, and nobody wants a repeat of the Gilets Jaunes' mass protests. But it's a vital test of France's economic credibility and Europe's willingness to improve intergenerational fairness in wartime.

Macron's call to raise the minimum age to start collecting government pension benefits to 65, from 62, comes as Europe feels the pinch of demographic and economic decline. The Old Continent is also the oldest continent by median age (42). Its population has fallen since covid and it's set to post the weakest economic growth of any region in the world this year. Living longer and better is something to be celebrated, but it also adds to the strain of pension payouts.

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