ITALY – MPs in the Italian parliament’s lower house have backed prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s controversial pensions reform, in a vote of confidence, by 333 for and 148 against.

The vote now means Italy should be able to cut 39 billion euros off its pension bill between 2008 and 2013, according to government figures.

Berlusconi said the legislation was needed to meet Italy’s European Union commitments. “I have made commitments to European Union finance ministers and therefore it seemed logical," he was quoted as saying.

The pension bill raises the retirement age from 57 to 60 as from 2008. The government says the reforms should save the state around 0.7% of GDP annually once operational.

And workers must have paid 40 years of social security contributions, or be 60 years old and have 35 years of contributions in order to retire.

The country spends about 14% of GDP on pensions.