Around five million Italian workers are voting on whether they back an agreement between unions and the government on pension reform – an urgent matter in a country with an aging population and low birth rate that spends 15% of its GDP on pensions. Voting lasts until Wednesday.
One worker said: “The more workers take part in this referendum, then the better chance there is of future improvements in wages.” Italy’s three main union groups agreed the reforms with the government in July, but then decided that their members should vote on it.
It is being proposed that the minimum retirement age for men be raised to 58 at the start of 2008 – for those who have paid social security contributions for at least 35 years. It would go up to 59 in 2009 and to 61 by 2013. Women could retire one year earlier.
The issue has caused divisions between the nine political parties in Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s fragile centre-left coalition government. If the referendum of union members rejects the pension reform plan, or passes it with only a small majority, the left wing members of Prodi’s coalition will push for it to be watered down.