President Emmanuel Macron's government on Sunday offered a concession on contested French pension reforms, seeking to shore up support from prospective right-wing allies ahead of the parliamentary debate.
People who began work between the ages of 20 and 21 will be able to retire at 63, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told the JDD weekly, rather than the headline age of 64 that has unions and large swathes of the public bristling.
"We hear the request" of MPs from the conservative Republicans party, whose votes are needed to make up a majority for the reform, Borne said.
Republicans leader Eric Ciotti had earlier told the Parisien newspaper that the change would "secure a very large majority" of his MPs.
Although re-elected to the presidency last year, Macron also lost his parliamentary majority and has been forced either to cobble together compromises or ram through laws using an unpopular constitutional side door.
But he has stuck to the widely disliked pension reform, against which hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated and many workers went on strike in two days of mass action so far, with more planned on February 7 and 11.
Meanwhile the left-wing opposition in parliament has submitted thousands of amendments to stymie debate on the law.
Borne also acknowledged demands from the Republicans and Macron's Democratic Movement allies for a 2027 review of the reform, which aims to bring the pensions system out of deficit by 2030.
And she said the government would pile pressure on companies to end the practice of letting go of older employees, which leaves many struggling to find work in their final years before pension age.
"Too often, companies stop training and recruiting older people," Borne said.
"It's shocking for the employees and it's a loss to deprive ourselves of their skills."
Government plans will force companies to regularly publish details of how many older workers they employ, with Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt on Saturday trailing financial penalties for those which fail to do so.
© Agence France-Presse
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