Paris, France (CNN) -- France will raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 as part of efforts to wipe out the country's growing deficit, Labor Minister Eric Woerth said Wednesday.
He told a news conference that France was only doing what other European countries have already done in raising the retirement age.
"Working longer is inevitable," he said. "All our European neighbors have done this by working longer. We must join this movement."
The change will be made in 2018 and will affect both public- and private-sector workers, he said.
Those workers who have particularly laborious jobs will be allowed to retire early, and those who began working before the age of 18 will still be able to retire at 60, Woerth said.
The measure will allow France to save 19 billion euros ($23.3 billion) by 2018, he said.
Thousands of demonstrators protested the measure on the streets of Paris on Tuesday.
Woerth defended the reforms Wednesday, saying it is "imperative" and "a moral obligation" to save France's pension system.
"Our main objective is to become balanced," he said. "This does not mean less deficit -- it means zero deficit by 2018."
As a member of the eurozone -- the 16 countries that use the euro currency -- France is required to keep its deficit below 3 percent.
Thousands of demonstrators organized by the Force Ouvriere trade union took to the streets of Paris, France, on Tuesday to protest the government reform plan for the French pension system. The union says more than 70,000 people took part in the protest, but police estimated the crowd at 23,000.
CNN's Saskya Vandoorne contributed to this report.