Many French employees are outraged that they may have to retire at age 64. Reasons why2 days ago
Protests broke out in Paris and across several French cities Thursday evening following a move by the government to force through reforms of the pension system that will push up the retirement age from 62 to 64. The proposed reforms of France's cherished pensions system were already controversial, but the manner in which the bill was approved has sparked the most anger. Pollster IFOP showed that 83% of young adults and 78% of those aged over 35 found the government's manner of passing the bill "unjustified." Even among pro-Macron voters, 58% disagreed with how the law was passed, regardless of their thoughts about the reforms. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne conceded that the government initially aimed to avoid using Article 49.3 of the constitution to crowbar the reforms past the National Assembly, but the "collective decision" to do so was taken at a meeting with the president, ministers and allied lawmakers mid-Thursday. The government's commitment to reforms is money, as the current system is no longer fit for purpose and without immediate action the pensions deficit will reach more than $13 billion annually by 2027.
The French government has proposed reforms to balance the deficit in 2030, with a multi-billion dollar surplus to pay for measures allowing those in physically demanding jobs to retire early. This is a big deal for the French, who still have generous pension arrangements compared to other Western countries. Pensions reform has long been a thorny issue in France, with millions taking to the streets to oppose raising the retirement age by two years to 62 and in 2014 further reforms were met with wide protests. The post-World War II social system enshrined rights to a state-funded pension and healthcare, which have been jealously guarded since. France has one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialized world, spending more than most other countries on pensions at nearly 14% of economic output.
However, as social discontent mounts over the surging cost of living, protesters at several strikes have repeated a common mantra to CNN: They are taxed heavily and want to preserve a right to a dignified old age. Will the controversy give leverage to Macron's critics? Despite any popular anger, his position is safe for now. Politicians to the far left and far right of Macron's center-right party were quick to jump on his government's move to skirt a parliamentary vote, with far-right politician Marine Le Pen calling for Elisabeth Borne to go. Jean-Luc Melenchon was also quick to hammer the government, blasting the reforms as having "no parliamentary legitimacy" and calling for nationwide spontaneous strike action.
This controversy could complicate Macron's intentions to introduce further reforms of the education and health sector, and could force him to negotiate more on future reforms. Perrineau warns that Macron's tendency to be "a little imperious, a little impatient" can make political negotiations harder.