FRANCE – The French senate has formally agreed that pension contribution periods are to be increased, and that the public and private sector pension systems are to be harmonised.

Friday evening, the Senate passed the key proposal. In order to claim a full pension, both public and private sectors workers must contribute for 40 years as of 2008. This will increase to 41 years in 2012, increasing to 42 years in 2020, depending on demographic, economic and social changes.

Last week the Senate commenced discussions of the 453 amendments agreed by French ministers 7 July. Final decisions for the pensions bill will continue to be discussed by the Senate over the course of this week.

The proposal of bringing in line public and private sector contribution periods has been the subject of intense debate between the social partners and the political parties. While the central party, UMP, voted in favour of the proposal, the parties of the left were strongly opposed. President of the communist, republic and citizen’s party, Nicole Borvo, argued that unemployment was already a problem, without keeping people in work and therefore further blocking entry to the workplace for the young.

A final version of the pensions bill is expected before September.