French workers may have to retire at 64 and many are in uproar. Here’s why | CNN


Immediately Protests broke out Paris and several French cities on Thursday evening followed a government move to force through pension reforms that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

While proposed reforms to France’s beloved pension system were already controversial. Method of passing the bill – bypassing the vote in the country’s lower house, where President Emmanuel Macron’s party does not have a clear majority – which arguably sparked the most anger.

And that anger is widespread in France.

Data from pollster IFOP showed that 83% of young adults (18-24) and 78% of over-35s found the way the government passed the bill “unfair”. Even among pro-Macron voters – who voted for him in the first round of last year’s presidential election ahead of his far-right rival – a majority of 58 percent disapproved of how the law was passed. , regardless of their views. Reforms

Macron has pursued social reforms, particularly the pension system, a key policy of his 2022 re-election bid and a theme he has maintained for most of his time in office. However, Thursday’s move has so inflamed the opposition in the political arena that some are questioning the wisdom of his appetite for reform.

Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne admitted in an interview with TF1 on Thursday night that the government initially intended to avoid using Article 49.3 of the constitution to block reforms in the National Assembly. He said a “collective decision” to do so was taken at a meeting mid-Thursday with the president, ministers and coalition lawmakers.

For Macron’s cabinet, the easy answer to the government’s commitment to reform is money. The government says the current system – relying on the working population to pay for a growing age group of retirees – is no longer fit for purpose.

Labor Minister Olivier Dusupt said the pension deficit would exceed $13 billion a year by 2027 without urgent action. Referring to opponents of the reforms, Dussopt told CNN affiliate BFMTV: “Do they imagine that if we stop the reforms, we will stop the deficit?

When the proposal was unveiled in January, the government said the reforms would balance the deficit by 2030, with a multibillion-dollar surplus to pay for measures that would bring physically demanding jobs to people sooner. Will be able to retire.

For Budget Minister Gabriel Atal, the calculation is clear. “If we don’t. [the reforms] Today, we will have to take much more brutal measures in the future,” he said in an interview with broadcaster France Inter on Friday.

“No pension reform has pleased the French,” Pascal Perrineau, a political scientist at Sciences Po University, told CNN on Friday.

“Each time public opinion opposes it, then gradually the plan passes and public opinion basically resigns itself to it.” He added that the failure of the government is the failure to sell the project to the French people.

They are not the first to hit this hurdle. Pension reform has long been a thorny issue in France. In 1995, weeks of public protests forced the government of the day to abandon plans to reform public sector pensions. In 2010, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to oppose raising the retirement age by two years to 62, and further reforms in 2014 were met with widespread protests.

An anti-pension reform activist writes.

For many in France, the pension system, as with social support in general, is seen as the basis of the state’s responsibilities and relations with citizens.

The post-World War II social system included state-sponsored pensions and rights to health care, since then in a country where the state had long played an active role in ensuring a certain standard of living. paid, it has been guarded ever since.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, France has one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialized world, spending more than other countries on pensions at about 14 percent of economic output.

But as social discontent grows over the rising cost of living, protesters at several strikes have repeated a common mantra to CNN: They’re taxed too much and want to preserve the right to a dignified old age.

Macron is in the early stages of his second term after being re-elected in 2022, and still has four years left to serve as the country’s leader. Despite any public outcry, his position is safe for now.

However, Thursday’s use of Article 49.3 only reinforces past criticisms that it is out of step with public feeling and against the will of the French people.

Politicians on the far left and far right of Macron’s centre-right party quickly jumped on his government’s move to skirt the parliamentary vote.

Far-right politician Marine Le Pen tweeted on Thursday, “After the slap the Prime Minister gave the French people by simply imposing a reform they didn’t want, I think Elizabeth Bourne should be let go.” Should.”

MPs from the left-wing coalition NUPES (New People's Ecological and Social Union) hold placards as French Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne addresses deputies on Thursday to confirm power through a pension law without a vote in parliament.

France’s far-left leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was also quick to hammer the government, calling the reforms “no parliamentary justification” and calling for nationwide spontaneous strike action.

Certainly, public anger over pension reforms will only complicate Macron’s intentions to introduce further reforms in the education and health sectors – plans that were frozen by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The current dispute could ultimately force Macron to negotiate more on future reforms, Perrineau warned — though he notes that the French president is not known for compromise.

Perrineau said his tendency to be “a little bit jealous, a little bit impatient” could make political negotiations difficult.

He added that this was “probably the limit of Macronism”.

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