Why are so many young French people fighting against Macron’s pension reform?

For many young people around the world, retirement is an abstract idea. Faced with issues like global warming and unemployment, Generation Z has enough to do to start thinking about pensions.

Since French President Emmanuel Macron announced his plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 in January, anti-reform demonstrations have swept across France. And young people are increasingly at the forefront.

Our reporter Anelise Borges traveled to Paris to find out why.

While some young people are worried about Macron’s reform, many say they are taking to the streets to express a more general sense of discontent.

Romane, a 21-year-old student, told Anelise: “We are against all government policies. […] At stake is much wider [than the reform].’

Parallels with May 68

Political scientist Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet echoed this idea: “You can draw a parallel with the May events of 68. [protests] because in 1968 we had the old President De Gaulle, who mattered to the older generation, but not to the younger generation. It’s the same with Emmanuel Macron – he’s an old president.”

59.2% of 18-24 year olds voted for Macron in the second round of the 2022 presidential election, but 41% of that age group did not vote at all. We also must not forget those who were not old enough to vote last year.

Many young protesters also believe they are defending their right to influence government decision making. To carry out his reform, President Macron, bypassing parliament, resorted to Article 49.3 of the French constitution, which opponents see as a threat to democracy. While the government says their approach was both legitimate and necessary, some see Macron as increasingly authoritarian.

The stakes are rising

It is also true that young people, for the most part without stable jobs and families, often lose less in demonstrations. However, as anti-reform rallies become more violent, the stakes are rising. In Paris, Anelise spoke to several young protesters who had been detained by the police.

Solal, 18, told her, “They [the police] caught me and hit me. […] Their purpose is obviously to discourage us. […] But this shouldn’t happen.