France: Over 1 million march against Macron’s rise in retirement age
Nationwide protests disrupted train services, flights, schools, and businesses in France on Thursday as over one million people marched against the government’s plans to push back the age of retirement from 62 to 64. Around 80,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Paris, with protests in 200 more cities across France. The Eiffel Tower was closed to visitors.
Small groups of demonstrators in the capital hurled bottles, rocks, and fireworks at riot police, France’s Interior Ministry said. Eight of the biggest unions took part in the industrial action, and have called for another day of action on 31 January.
Under the pension reforms unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron’s government, from 2027 people will have to work 43 years to qualify for a full pension, in opposition to the 42 years now. While the proposals have been hailed by the government as a vital measure to tackle a pension funding deficit, they are proving deeply unpopular among the public. A recent IFOP poll suggests nearly 68% of the public is against the change.
In France, the ratio between those working and those in retirement is reducing rapidly. Compared to four workers per retiree half a century ago, the ratio has now fallen to around 1.7 per retiree and is expected to sink further in the coming years. The government maintains that pension reforms are a must and argues that the step is in line with nearly all other countries in Europe that have raised the retirement age – 67 in Italy and Germany, 65 in Spain, and 66 in the UK.
Trade unions and left-wing parties have also expressed their displeasure with the move, arguing that as the pension system is currently not in deficit, there is no urgency to act. They also believe Macron’s pension reform will increase inequalities and hurt those who are most vulnerable. These are people who tend to start work earlier in life and therefore, have earned the right to a full pension by the age of 62. But now, with the proposals, they will have to work two more years for no added benefit.