France: Thousands continue to protest against pension age rise

Assel Satubaldina
20 March 2023, 18:10

France: Thousands continue to protest against pension age rise Photo: Samuel Boivin via Reuters Connectl

ASTANA. KAZINFORM For more than two weeks in a row, people in France have continued protesting against a rise in the pension age, decided on by the country’s leadership without a vote in the Parliament. More about the latest development and why the pension age rise has drawn so much public outrage is in the latest article of Kazinform.

Reforming pensions was one of President Emmanuel Macron's key promises after his first election in 2017. Yet, his promise was disrupted multiple times, first by protests and then by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plan was to gradually raise the retirement age by three months a year, starting in September, and by 2027 it will reach 63 years and three months until it hits the target age of 64 in 2030.


Photo: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

The pension reform envisions guaranteed minimum pension income of not less than 85 percent of the net minimum wage, around 1,200 euros per month at current levels for new retirees, the right of police officers and other workers in physically or mentally arduous jobs to retire early and no differences in retirement ages and benefits for rail workers, electricity and gas workers, among others.


Photo: Reuters/Eric Gaillard

What are the protests about?

Nationwide protests have been taking place since mid-January, yet they were mostly peaceful.

They escalated after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced on March 16 that French President Emmanuel Macron would use special constitutional powers to raise the retirement age. Macron thereby decided to use Article 49.3 of the Constitution to adopt the controversial draft bill without a parliamentary vote.

The government explained this decision by saying it is necessary for the pension system not to go bust.

«We cannot risk the compromise reached between the parliamentary committees. We can't play with the future of the pension system, the reform is necessary,» she told the National Assembly, a lower chamber of the French parliament that had not voted on this proposal.

Her speech was faced with shouts and anger from opposition lawmakers. It is also the result of Macron and his government’s failure to garner a majority in the parliament. In the latest National Assembly election in June 2022, the incumbent president and his party lost an absolute majority in parliament.


Photo: Stephane Mahe / Reuters

Citizens and workers’ unions immediately took their anger to protests on the streets, as thousands gathered at the Place de la Concorde near the National Assembly, lighting a bonfire. Protesters were screaming, «Macron, resign!» and «Macron is going to break down, we are going to win.»

As the protests escalated, police used tear gas against the demonstrators and clashed with some of them in the crowd.

According to Reuters, municipal officials banned rallies on Paris's central Place de la Concorde and nearby Champ-Elysees on the night of March. Police arrested at least 61 the previous night and 81 on a Saturday night, Reuters reports. More than 500 people across the country were arrested during protests.


Photo: aa.com.tr

«One thing is the pension reform, but there is also an accumulation of general discontent. That's why it's necessary to take to the streets, without a fight, we will not achieve anything,» said protesters, reported Euronews.

It is not the first time that French citizens, both in Paris and many other regions, protested, including about pension system reforms.

The latest unrest is what many say is reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests.

The Yellow Vest protests, also known as the Yellow Jacket protests, were a series of demonstrations that began in France in November 2018. Initially sparked by a proposed fuel tax increase, protests quickly evolved into a broader movement against the government's economic policies and President Emmanuel Macron's leadership.


Photo: © Samuel Boivin via Reuters ConnectlLOIC VENANCE/AFP

The protesters, who wore high-visibility yellow vests as a symbol of their movement, were primarily working-class citizens who were frustrated with the high cost of living and perceived inequality in French society. They called for greater social and economic justice, including lower taxes and higher wages.

There were clashes between demonstrators and police and numerous incidents of violence and vandalism. The movement also spread to other countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands.

On Monday, Macron may face a critical moment when the National Assembly is expected to vote on no-confidence motions filed after his government passed a reform without a vote in the parliament. While these votes are unlikely to bring down the current government, it signals a long-lasting political crisis in the country.

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