President Francois Hollande won’t allow his plan to overhaul France’s pension system this year to be derailed by public opposition and a stalled economy, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said.
“We are reforming the country, we won’t stop,” Moscovici said in an interview today with Bloomberg Television in Moscow, where he was attending a meeting of Group of 20 finance chiefs. “People are realistic, they want results. The results are coming,” he said, adding that the government’s popularity will start to improve when unemployment begins to decline.
With joblessness at a record high and an economy that has barely grown in more than two years, Hollande is less popular one year into his mandate than any of his predecessors in the past half century. Only 29 percent of French voters approve of his leadership, compared with the 35 percent who backed his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy after one year in office, according to an Ifop poll published last month.
Hollande is preparing to lengthen the number of years needed to work before eligibility for a state pension in a system that lost 14 billion euros ($18 billion) last year.
“The government is now pushing reforms at a speed it believes is compatible with economic and social constraints,” said Philippe Gudin, head of economic research at Barclays Plc in Paris. Like elsewhere in Europe, “growing dissatisfaction with austerity and government policies in general could create friction.”
Since taking office, Hollande has offered a payroll tax credit to business, loosened labor laws to make it easier to trim staff and sought to hold government spending in check after raising taxes to reduce the budget deficit.
France slipped into recession in the first quarter. National statistics office Insee expects gross domestic product figures that will be published next month will show a return to growth in the second quarter. It expects the economy to shrink 0.1 percent in all of 2013.
“It’s tough to govern a country that is in recession or low growth,” Moscovici said. “For me, it’s the beginning. Growth is coming back,” he said.