In response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, a new round of protests and strikes has broken out across the country. The anti-government corteges were just as loud and just as large as they had been on the first day of action, if not larger. Attendance was predicted to exceed the 1.12 million seen at the previous march 12 days ago.
Eight major unions participated in the strike, which caused problems for universities, public transportation systems, and oil refineries. The CGT union estimated that half a million people gathered in Paris, while authorities estimated 87,000; the total number of protesters across France could reach 2.8 million.
Despite the widespread participation, it is unclear whether the protesters will be successful in getting Mr. Macron to back down. Insofar as these “days of action” follow the same predictable and orderly patterns as they have thus far, the government can weather an unlimited number of them.
Despite polls showing that the majority of voters are against Mr. Macron’s proposed pension age reforms, the legislation to do so will begin its passage through the National Assembly next week. With no absolute majority in the legislature, the ruling parties’ legislators will need to court the more conservative Republicans for votes.
Thousands of protesters gathered in the southern cities of Toulouse, Marseille, and Nice and the western cities of Saint Nazaire, Nantes, and Rennes several hours before the main demonstration began in the Place d’Italie in the heart of Paris. The protests, which took place in over 200 cities, reportedly required the deployment of 11,000. A scuffle occurred at the end of the Paris route in Place Vauban, and 30 people were detained as a result. The minister of the interior was very pleased with how the police handled the demonstrations.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far left, told reporters in Marseille, “Mr. Macron is certain to lose.” “No one wants his reforms, and the more time that passes, the more opposition there is to them.” The 62-year-old Karima displayed a sign in Paris that read, “Lots of us already have broken careers and will have to work even longer than men in order to have a full pension.”
Transportation was severely disrupted, with only two of Paris’s driverless metro lines operating normally and three-quarters of trains outside Paris being cancelled. One of the capital’s main overground lines reportedly had a large number of passengers. Strikes in the French transportation sector no longer have the potential to paralyse the country. Perhaps out of concern for their paychecks, fewer government employees went on strike on Tuesday than they did on January 19.
At the major TotalEnergies oil refineries and fuel depots, the CGT union claimed that at least three-quarters of the workforce had walked out, while the company claimed that the actual number was much lower. After a strike at the main electricity provider, EDF, power plants reported lower output.
When asked how many secondary school teachers had walked out, the government said slightly more than a quarter, but one of the main teachers’ unions put the number at 55. Students at the Sciences Po university in Paris have pledged to occupy the campus in support of the strikers, and high school students have demonstrated outside of some schools.
“Many French citizens complain that they are in increasingly painful physical and mental strain due to their jobs. People don’t want to work because of the environment, not because they don’t want to work at all “Bruno Palier, a political scientist at Sciences Po, recently spoke with the BBC. A growing body of evidence suggested that protesters were motivated by issues beyond the proposed increase in the state pension age.
A male nurse explained that he was working in this facility because he could no longer stand working in a public hospital. There is a lot of frustration among educators about the current state of classrooms. Cartoons and effigies were used to mock Mr. Macron, the villain.
During a nationwide day of strike and protests against the French government’s pension reform plan, students at the Lycee Turgot high school in Paris blocked the entrance to the school. Let the people vent their anger, which is really just an expression of their powerlessness in the face of remorseless and incomprehensible change, and that’s a good argument for the president and prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, to stick to their guns.
France’s retirement age of 62 is lower than that of most other Western European countries. While the retirement age in the United Kingdom is 66, Italy, Germany, and Spain are all working toward making it 67. Mr. Macron’s government has signalled it might budge a little on the finer points of its reform, but it has stood firm on the main thrust of raising the retirement age by two years to 64.
A member of Mr. Macron’s Renaissance party, Christopher Weissberg, said, “Any kind of reform that is going to ask people to work longer will be unpopular, but we’ve been elected on this reform.” Very few French workers have private pensions tied to capital investments, and even fewer are contributing to the national pension system (1.7 workers are contributing for every retiree).
“In our globalised society, every system must be self-sustaining. If not, it’s deteriorating, and if it’s deteriorating, people’s pensions will be cut “This is what Mr. Weissberg had to say as a warning. Expert economist Professor Philippe Aghion argued that the reforms were essential because France had a structural deficit of around €13bn ($14bn; £11bn), and that increasing the retirement age would also help increase the employment rate in France.
According to his interview with BBC News, the government would then have more “credibility” to invest in areas such as education, healthcare, and green industrialization. The French opposition, worried that they will ultimately win only individual battles but lose the war, may decide to escalate the dispute by resorting to tactics such as indefinite strikes at fuel depots or selective power outages. The demonstrations have been lighthearted and peaceful thus far. As long as that holds true, the government can ride out the wave of opposition and get its bill through the legislature with minimal delay. However, this all changes if the economy takes a nosedive. The situation also shifts if the protests become violent.