July 17, 2020, 08.00 PM

PARIS, KOMPAS.com – France’s pension reform has been postponed until 2021 in order for the country to focus on its economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex told labor and employers unions of the reform delays on Friday.

“The Prime Minister proposes to postpone consultations on this reform”, leader of the union for small and medium-sized enterprises CPME Francois Asselin said.

Castex also told unions that the full implementation of the unemployment insurance reform would be postponed to Jan. 1, 2021.

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France’s pension reform is between the government and the country’s unions.

The wake of the coronavirus pandemic in France in February halted all measures related to President Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious pension reform plans.

Macron’s push is the single greatest revamp of the pension system since World War Two.

Response from the country’s unions was anything but welcoming as thousands took to the streets to protest at the turn of the year.

Delaying its pension reform is in part to cool down tensions as France grapples with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

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"The priority now is the battle against the crisis, for employment and to tackle unemployment," Castex told reporters after his first meeting with union representatives since becoming prime minister this month.

Castex said the reform, which includes raising the retirement age by two years to 64, would not be scrapped.

A deferment until after the 2022 presidential elections might defuse union and voter concerns but would undermine Macron's already-weakened credibility as a reformer.

The reform is central to Macron's ambition of creating a more flexible and competitive labor force. But trade unions who argue that it will erode hard-earned benefits and leave pensioners worse off. 

Surging Cases in France's Brittany Region

The popular tourist region of Brittany is seeing a spike in the reproduction rate of the Covid-19 virus based on government data.

The news indicates the virus transmission is gaining momentum in France.

The French government sped up plans to make wearing face masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces on Thursday.

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There are growing public concerns about new Covid-19 hotspots particularly in parts of western and southern France.

These two areas were relatively spared during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak between March and May.

According to data released on Friday, the disease's reproduction rate, known as the R0, in Brittany had risen from 0.92 to 2.62 between July 10 and July 14.

The number is one of several indicators authorities are watching when deciding on whether to reimpose tougher restrictions after ending the country's lockdown in May.

A reproduction rate of 2.62 means that each Covid-19 infected person is, on average, passing the disease on to between two and three other people.

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A rate of less than 1 is needed to gradually contain the disease.

"It's a worrying number because it means the epidemic is taking off again," Eric Caumes, an infectious disease specialist at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris told BFM TV.

The disease has killed more than 30,000 people in France.

While it has been under control with fatalities and the number of people in intensive care falling, daily cases have increased ahead of the summer holiday season, where people are gathering in larger groups and travelers from abroad have been allowed back into France.

Caumes said Paris hospitals in June had not seen any new virus cases, but that since the start of July, people were beginning to trickle back in similar numbers to February with two or three sick people a day.

"It is possible that what is happening in Paris is nothing compared to what is happening in other regions of France which were not hit by the first epidemic wave and risk facing an epidemic wave," he said.

(Writer: Matthieu Protard, John Irish | Editor: Hugh Lawson, Kevin Liffey, Janet Lawrence) 

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-reforms/french-govt-to-postpone-pension-reform-talks-until-2021-union-idUSKCN24I1JK

https://www.reuters.com/article/france-reforms/french-govt-to-postpone-pension-reform-talks-until-2021-union-idUSP6N28E04J

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-france/covid-19-transmission-rate-spikes-in-frances-brittany-region-idUSKCN24I1IN

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