PARIS Nearly two thirds of French support pension reform that includes raising the retirement age, a poll showed on Thursday, indicating the public would be willing to accept more drastic change than President Francois Hollande has proposed.
The Socialist leader is preparing a cautious reform to fix a hole in retirement coffers, hoping to avoid a repeat of huge protests in 2010 when former President Nicolas Sarkozy hiked the retirement age to 62 from 60.
But a survey by pollster IPSOS shows 63 percent of the French want an in-depth overhaul, 66 percent think the pay-in period should be extended beyond a current 41.5 years, and 61 percent say the legal retirement age should be raised.
The poll published by Les Echos business daily newspaper suggests that Hollande may be treading too carefully with plans for that would leave the pension age at 62, but trim annual pension rises to cut a growing deficit.
Reforming a generous pension system is once again a priority for France as it struggles to pare down its public deficit, with retirement coffers seen 20 billion euros ($26.39 billion)in the red by 2020, according to the COR pensions advisory council.
France's public deficit in 2012 was 98.8 billion euros.
A panel of government experts is working on a draft reform which will be discussed, along with other reform plans, by unions during a two-day social conference in June.
Despite strong backing for a "deep overhaul that spares no issue", 76 percent of those questioned said they did not trust Hollande's government to make the pension system sustainable.
The survey was conducted over the telephone with 1,019 people on April 12 and 13.
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Michael Roddy)