Fears French pension reform will disadvantage women

STORY: French women would get a raw deal from President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform, say demonstrators.

Macron wants to raise the retirement age by two years to keep the pension system out of the red.

He has offered a guaranteed minimum pension equivalent to $1,300 per month after working a complete full-time career.

But nurse Maryse Lopez says the move leaves women at a distinct disadvantage as they take longer parental leave and work part-time more often than men.

Lopez took to the streets on Thursday (January 19) as part of a nationwide strike.

She says that raising the retirement age to 64 from 62 and the number of years workers must pay in from 42 to 43 to receive a full pension will make it even harder for women to qualify.

"In hospitals, when we say that the strenuousness of the job must be recognised - yes- and for women, it's even more difficult, because some have switched to part-time work to take care of their children or other things, with a career that's a bit broken up. So some of them end up with pensions that will be really ridiculous."

Lopez, now 50, could retire at 57 due to the strenuous nature of her work. She would get 850 euros a month if she did but she says she would need to work until 64 to get a pension she could reasonably live on.

She fears it could be even later. Anyone who has not paid into the system for long enough can't retire until 67 to get a full pension.

"(The pension reforms) penalise women even more, because a two-year extension would mean we will leave with even lower pensions, while many of us in the hospitals are finding it difficult to continue our jobs for a long time, because it is too back-breaking - whether for health aides, nurses, or even for those in other services like administration. There's impossible pressure."

Opinion polls show most French oppose the measure and more than a million people joined the protests on Thursday.

French women's pensions are already 40% lower than men's, according to government data.

The government has said the reform will allow the parental leave of 3,000 more women every year to be taken into account for their pension contributions.