France Remains Under Protest Over Pension Change

Yves Herman/Reuters

Brandon So, Staff Writer |

On Jan. 19 of 2023, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, directed his prime minister to enact a special constitutional power. Élisabeth Borne authorized Article 49-3,  which bypasses the French Parliamentary vote and immediately goes into effect. The bill in question was the reform of the pension age, increasing the age from 62 to 64 years. The reform has received heavy backlash from the citizens of France protesting the government’s decision.

The controversy surrounding the pension reform is rooted in the French social contract, which has long provided generous social benefits to citizens, including early retirement for certain professions. The current system allows workers to retire at 62 with a full pension, but the government’s proposal would require them to work until 64 to receive their full benefits. The government argues that raising the pension age is necessary to keep the pension system sustainable in the face of an aging population. Raising the pension age would bring approximately $18.5 billion in revenue by the year 2030. 

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Paris in opposition to Macron’s decision. The protests also occurred in the National Assembly building, a governmental body that governs specific aspects of French law.

In response to the reform, motions in the National Assembly have called for a vote of no confidence for the government of Emmanuel Macron. However, to no avail, the government passed the no-confidence vote with only 9 votes short needed to pass. There have been two unsuccessful attempts for a vote of no-confidence. Since a vote of no-confidence did not pass, the pension reform became French law.  

Laurent Cipriani, AP

French society has a long history of protesting government issues, ever since the French Revolution in 1789. The French culture of protesting in anger has been demonstrated over the past few weeks, mainly in Paris. French culture is deeply rooted in a belief in “power to the people”. In this case, the French believe that the actions of Emmanuel Macron do not share the ideologies of the people.  

Activists continue to protest in the streets with some becoming very violent. Smoke bombs and tear gas filled the streets as the government shows no sign of abandoning its reforms. At the time of this article the pension reform remains in place and protests continue throughout the country. A nationwide protest is scheduled for Apr. 6.  

Teresa Suarez/EPA, via Shutterstock 

As for Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating, it is at its lowest since his re-election last year. According to the results of an Epoka poll, in one month it fell by 4 points to 26%. The change in approval rating signifies that Emmanuel Macron will not be the President of France for much longer unless he and his government start listening and acting on behalf of the people of France. 

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