At least 1.1 million people protested on the streets of Paris and other French cities Thursday amid nationwide strikes against plans to raise the retirement age — but President Emmanuel Macron insisted he would press ahead with the proposed pension reforms.
Emboldened by the mass show of resistance, French unions announced new strikes and protests Jan. 31, vowing to try to get the government to back down on plans to push up the standard retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron says the measure – a central pillar of his second term — is needed to keep the pension system financially viable, but unions say it threatens hard-fought worker rights.
Out of the country for a French-Spanish summit in Barcelona, Macron acknowledged the public discontent but said that “we must do that reform” to “save” French pensions.
In a country with an aging population and growing life expectancy where everyone receives a state pension, Macron’s government says the reform is the only way to keep the system solvent.
Unions propose a tax on the wealthy or more payroll contributions from employers to finance the pension system instead.
Polls suggest most French people oppose the reform, and Thursday was the first public reaction to Macron’s plan. Strikes severely disrupted transport, schools and other public services, and more than 200 rallies were staged around France.
Under the planned changes, workers must have worked for at least 43 years to be entitled to a full pension. For those who do not fulfil that condition, like many women who interrupted their career to raise children or those who studied for a long time and started working late, the retirement age would remain unchanged at 67.
Those who started to work under the age of 20 and workers with major health issues would be allowed early retirement.
Protracted strikes met Macron’s last effort to raise the retirement age in 2019. He eventually withdrew it after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Retirement rules vary widely from country to country, making direct comparisons difficult. The official retirement age in the U.S. is now 67, and countries across Europe have been raising pension ages as populations grow older and fertility rates drop.
Author(s): SYLVIE CORBET and JADE LE DELEY
Publication Date: 19 Jan 2023
Publication Site: Associated Press