France Isn’t Buying Macron’s Pension Reform

France Isn’t Buying Macron’s Pension Reform
Protesters hold a placard with a portrait of French President Emmanuel Macron during a demonstration against plans to push back France’s retirement age, in Lille, France, Feb. 11, 2023 (AP photo by Michel Spingler).

For the past month, France has been in the grip of protests against pension reforms proposed by the government of President Emmanuel Macron, with close to a million people joining the fourth day of demonstrations on Feb. 11. The numbers of protesters were especially impressive in medium-sized provincial towns, the famous “peripheral France” at the epicenter of the Yellow Vest movement of 2018. Recent polls show that approximately two-thirds of respondents oppose the changes to pensions, while even more support the social movement against them.

Unlike during the Yellow Vest movement, these protests are organized by the trade unions and have to date been entirely orderly. They have even been expressly designed to avoid substantial disruption to everyday life. But with the government sticking to its guns, tension is mounting. The unions have threatened to “bring France to a standstill” on March 7 if key aspects of the reform project are not withdrawn.

Anticipated since Macron’s reelection last year, the latest reform of France’s public pension scheme was finally unveiled last month. Its controversial centerpiece is a proposal to increase the minimum eligibility age for state pensions from 62 to 64 by 2030. The gradual rise in the years of work required to qualify for a full state pension, introduced in 2014 by the Socialist government of former President Francois Hollande, will also be accelerated. In other words, if the reform is adopted, French workers will wait longer and work more for their pensions. By contrast, the government has flatly ruled out any increases in taxes or reductions in the value of current pensions, which were often included in previous attempts at pension reform.

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