WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's lawmakers on Friday approved a controversial government plan to raise the retirement age to 67 for most Poles, a key part in efforts to cut state debt, maintain robust growth and keep up investor confidence in this emerging economy.

Following a heated debate that included the opposition calling the government "thieves", the lower chamber of Parliament voted by a margin of 268 to 185 with 2 abstentions to approve changes sought by the pro-business government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Until now, women were allowed to retire at age 60 and men at 65.

Tusk's government argues that delayed retirement will help Poles build up larger pensions and reduce state spending. It says that in the decades to come, the aging society will not be able to maintain its remarkable economic growth of recent years and also support the growing number of retirees. Already the state budget is burdened by the need to funnel funds into the state-run pension system.

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