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SAO PAULO, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer said on Friday that the pension reform bill that is "indispensable" to reduce the nation's budget deficit must be voted on this year in the lower house of Congress before the 2018 election year.
Speaking at a chemical industry event, Temer appealed to businessmen to lobby Congress for approval of the unpopular pension overhaul that is seen by investors as crucial to restoring Brazil's fiscal health.
Rodrigo Maia, the speaker of the lower house, said this week he would not put the bill to the vote until the government had secured the 308 votes the measure will need for passage.
To allow more time for negotiations with reluctant lawmakers, Temer agreed with congressional leaders on Thursday to delay the lower house vote on the bill until the week of Dec. 18, the last before the Christmas recess.
Once it clears the lower chamber, Temer expects the legislation to be voted on in the Senate in February.
"Reform of the pension system is indispensable. It will allow Brazil to move forward," Temer said. "But this must be the work of all of us. We need to show that we support this bill."
Temer acknowledged that lawmakers facing re-election next October had legitimate concerns about supporting the bill.
The reform proposal seeks to increase the age at which Brazilians can retire and collect social security. It would also make pension payouts in Brazil, among the most generous in the world, more modest.
If a vote is further delayed until next year, its chances of approval will be limited as lawmakers become more sensitive to the demands of voters when the election campaign gets underway. (Reporting by Natalia Scalzaretto; Writing by Anthony Boadle Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)