As US voters and legislators are snipping workers' benefits, a nation on the other side of the pond is taking a different approach. France's new socialist president, François Hollande, is lowering the minimum retirement age by two years, reports the Telegraph. Those who begin work at the age of 18 and pay enough into the pension system can now retire with benefits at the age of 60. The move fulfills a campaign promise, and reverses the work of Nicolas Sarkozy, who raised the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, sparking a storm of national protests. Hollande cited "social justice" as the reason for the move, which runs counter to austerity measures being taken by much of Europe. Hollande announced the change just as unemployment in France hit 10% for the first quarter—the highest in 12 years.
The expected $1.37 billion cost of extra pensions is to be covered by more payroll fees for employers and workers. The leftist CGT union hailed the move, which will take effect in November, as a "striking decision that breaks with policies everywhere in Europe." The leading business lobby blasted it as "worrying for the financial future of the pension systems and for the competitiveness of businesses." France used to have one of the highest retirement ages in Europe—65. It was cut by François Mitterand to 60 in 1982, notes the AP. Pension costs are high in France, particularly because the French have one of the highest life expectancies in the world: 85 for women, and 78 for men.