June 24 (Reuters) - French unions staged nationwide strikes on Thursday in protest at government plans to raise the retirement age to 62 and reform state pensions, and organisers predicted more than a million workers would take to the streets.
European Union figures show the average exit age from the labour market is 61 in Greece, 62 in Germany and 59.4 in France.
Here are details of some of the changes planned in retirement following austerity measures around Europe:
— Raising France’s statutory retirement age, which at 60 is one of the EU’s lowest, is the linchpin of a reform plan.
— The retirement age will rise gradually for people born after 1950 by four months a year to 62 in 2018. This measure will kick in from July 2011. It overturns a Socialist policy introduced by the late President Francois Mitterrand in 1983.
— President Nicolas Sarkozy hopes reform will convince investors he is serious about cleaning up state finances, which are set to register record deficit and debt levels in 2010.
— Pension reform will be a major test of the government’s resolve to put derailed public finances back on track, with a draft law expected this week amid strong domestic opposition.
— The EU and the IMF have imposed strict guidelines including raising women’s retirement age from 60 to 65 matching that of men, and imposing penalties on early retirement.
— With perks including early retirement for hundreds of supposedly “arduous” professions such as hairdressers, butchers and cheese factory workers, the pension system has cost the debt-choked nation about 12 percent of gross domestic product.
The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government confirmed in its emergency budget on June 22 it would review accelerating the increase in the state pension age to 66.
— “We are also planning to review the date at which the state pension age starts to rise to 66,” Works and Pensions Secretary Duncan Smith said, adding “we also have to think about the pace of change as we move beyond 66”. — A BBC report on Thursday said the increase may be enforced as early as 2016, but the Department for Work and Pensions declined to comment on Thursday.
An incoming Dutch government must focus on cutting spending, wind down stimulus measures and adopt much-needed structural reforms, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on June 16.
— The OECD proposed a number of austerity and reform measures that would help cut the budget deficit, including a hike in the retirement age to 67 from 65 as quickly as possible.
Italy’s cabinet agreed on June 10 to raise the retirement age for women working in the public sector to 65 from 2012 to bring it in line with that for men, as requested by the EU, the welfare minister said.
— Men and women in the public and private sectors can still retire before 65 if they have worked for long enough under a system which combines workers’ age with the number of years of pension contributions paid.
— The measures had no implications for private sector workers, where the average retirement age is around 61.
— The government faces growing anger over steps taken to rein in the public deficit.
— Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero tested the waters on pension reform in February when he announced plans to to raise the retirement age to 67 from 65, causing widespread outrage among Spaniards.
— The Spanish government hopes to hold cross-party talks by autumn on pension reform.
Last December the regular budget delivered savings of more than 4 billion euros. It also announced from 2010 an increase in the minimum public service pension age to 66 from 65, with a maximum retirement age of 70.
Germany’s upper house of parliament in 2007 gave final approval to a measure for a gradually phased increase in the retirement age to 67 from 65. Under the reform, the increase is to take effect in steps between 2012 and 2029.