Protests erupted across France on January 19th over in which more than a million people demonstrated against the Macron administration’s proposal to change the pension system in France. What’s the new pension system which Macron wants? Why are protests happening across the France? And, what’s the future of Macron and France.
According to the French interior ministry, 1.2 million people protested nationwide, with 80,000 of them in Paris. However, union organisers put the number at 2 million, with 400,000 of those protesting in Paris. It’s against the Macron administration’s proposals to overhaul the pension system in France, one of the most contentious of which is the idea to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Another proposal is that people will have to work 43 years to be eligible for a full pension. This is not the first time when Macron is attempting to change the pension system, in 2019 he attempted it too. But he abandoned the plan after Covid-19 struck.
French President Emmanuel Macron is an ardent man. Bringing back the pension reform despite the opposition is gutsy of him. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, France spent nearly 14% of its GDP on pensions.
The government of Macron claims that the reform is the best option to maintain the system’s financial stability in a nation where everyone receives a state pension and where the average age of the population is rising.
Though in France, reforming pensions has long been a contentious topic. In 1995, mass protests put an end to reform efforts, and subsequent governments encountered fierce opposition to the reforms that were passed in 2004, 2008, and 2010. According to a recent IFOP study, 68% of the population is against the reform, which is proving to be extremely unpopular.
According to Euronews, France’s left-wing parties and trade unions argue that the planned modifications are not necessary to fund the country’s pension system. Instead, several have advocated overhauling France’s tax code and stepping up efforts to combat tax evasion.
— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) January 10, 2023
The leader of the far-right Rassemblement Nationale (RN) Marine Le Pen also criticised the initiative saying, “the French can count on all our determination to block this unjust reform.”
Après avoir été élu grâce à la gauche et à la France insoumise, Emmanuel Macron va tenter désormais, avec le soutien de LR, de faire passer la retraite à 64 ans. Les Français peuvent compter sur toute notre détermination pour faire barrage à cette réforme injuste.
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) January 10, 2023
Further in protests, trade unions of France say that the most vulnerable people will be particularly impacted by requirements for career lengths and retirement age increases. For instance, the new 43-year career requirement is going to hurt women the most. Many women leave the workforce to raise families and come back after protracted absences. The proposed changes would require these women to work an additional 43 years or reach the age of 67 before they could get full retirement benefits.
Now, what do you all should expect of the reform and Macron in the future?
According to Le Monde, the eight major labour unions in a joint statement said that the January 19 strikes are intended to “kick off a powerful movement for pensions in the long term.” Another strike is called on January 31st. Given that protests will largely involve striking public sector employees of France, protests are expected to be disruptive.
Intense debate is anticipated about the reform when the French parliament meets the next month. The French administration will require the backing of right-wing lawmakers in order to enact the reform without a vote because it lacks a majority in parliament. Otherwise, it may have to rely on constitutional loopholes. By attempting the overhaul, Macron has proven that he’s a reformist. But, how the future spans out will test his political acumen. Despite not having a majority in Parliament, bringing this divisive reform can very well become a political suicide for him.