Pensions in France: Protests erupt as government forces raise retirement age


The French government has pushed through controversial plans to raise the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64, which is likely to spark a weeks-long protest movement in the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron will use special constitutional powers to pass a proposed pension reform bill, Prime Minister Elisabeth Born said Thursday at the National Assembly, which has yet to vote on the proposal.

“We can’t bet on the future of our pensions,” Bourne said, amid jibes and chants from lawmakers. “This reform is necessary.”

Labor leaders in France have called for more demonstrations following Bourne’s statement as several thousand people gathered in Paris’s Place de la Concorde and several other French cities on Thursday evening.

“Recourse to [constitutional article] 49.3, the government demonstrates that it does not have a majority to approve a two-year deferral of the statutory retirement age,” Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, one of the unions leading the protests, tweeted.

Philip Martinez, head of the CGT union, also called for more strikes and protests, CNN affiliate BFMTV reports.

Massive protests have been taking place regularly across France since mid-January, with millions of people protesting against the government’s plan. Mass strikes have hit transport and education, and in the capital Paris, uncollected rubbish is piling up on the streets.

The government has argued that reform is needed to keep the finances of the pension system from losing money in the coming years.

“The goal is to balance the bills without raising taxes or cutting pensions. Various options are being considered, but they all include raising the retirement age,” government spokesman Olivier Veran told reporters in January, Reuters reported.

The pension reform bill was passed by the French Senate earlier Thursday but was not expected to pass the National Assembly, the country’s lower house of parliament, where lawmakers were due to vote this afternoon.

The session was stopped early due to Bourne’s announcement. Lawmakers erupted in chaotic scenes as she explained the government’s decision, battling to be heard as lawmakers sang the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” and others held signs that read “No to 64”.

Bourne also criticized far-right lawmakers in the lower house for not supporting the law.

The leader of the far-right National Rally party, Marine Le Pen, called on the prime minister to resign.

“After the slap the prime minister just gave the French people by forcing a reform they don’t want, I think Elisabeth Bourne should go,” Le Pen tweeted on Thursday.

Plans to raise the retirement age spark mass protests

Pension reform in France, which deeply cherishes the right to a full pension at 62, has always been a very sensitive issue, especially now, when social discontent is growing due to the rising cost of living.

But with one of the lowest retirement ages in industrialized countries, France also spends more than most other countries on pensions, nearly 14% of its output, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.