French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he is "firm" on the principle of a universal pension system in France, while being open on the methods involved in getting there.
Mr. Philippe, who is looking to replace a system of 42 different pension regimes with a single, points-based plan, is meeting Tuesday with unions representing the country's transport sector, which have been on strike for more than a month to protest the government's effort to abandon their special regime.
"The transition may be gradual for different categories, but I am firm on the objective of a universal system, with no special regimes," Mr. Philippe said in an interview on RTL radio.
While French President Emmanuel Macron has already made unpopular changes to taxes, labor laws and the welfare system, pension reform is proving challenging. The labor unrest has already run longer than the 1995 strikes that forced the government to back off from changing the state system for retirement and health care.
Mr. Philippe said he was open to all discussions on the retirement age so long as they are fiscally prudent and are aimed at balancing the budget.
"The French know and understand that everywhere in Europe people are working a little longer because life expectancy has increased," he said. "The system needs to be responsible and balanced."
The government has proposed raising the age for a full pension to 64 from 62, which remains a bone of contention with one of the main unions.
Mr. Philippe said the pension bill will be presented to the cabinet Jan. 24, and that the National Assembly will start to examine it at the end of February. The law will be adopted in the National Assembly in March, he said.