Protests Ravage France over Retirement Age


The New Yorker

French citizens protesting the hike in the retirement age.

Julia Aguirre, Staff Writer

New legislation in France concerning the retirement age, which has been changed from 62 to 64, has been met with significant backlash. The public has demonstrated frustration over this change through numerous protests throughout the country over the past few months. This frustration was especially prominent in the May Day protest in Paris, as well as in other areas of France, and labor unions are calling for more protests in the near future.

Pension reforms have been a delicate subject in France for several years. CNN explains that in 1995, 2010, and 2014, government plans for changes in pension laws were met with widespread opposition and demonstrations. 

On May 1st, which is a traditional day for union-led protests, 112,000 people gathered in Paris to protest the legislation. Police were warned that protests on May Day would be particularly violent. A CNN team reported that there were fireworks and other projectiles thrown at the police, who responded with tear gas, and a building even caught fire at the Palace de la Nation in Paris. 19 police officers were injured in Paris on May Day, with a total of over 100 across the entire nation. One officer in Paris suffered burns from a Molotov cocktail.

The pension reforms are set to take place in September, while opponents are making final attempts to prevent this. France’s main labor unions are encouraging another round of strikes and demonstrations on June 6th, according to PBS. Other opponents are continuing to protest the legislation in many ways. “Opponents are also expected to stage more ‘casserolades,’ or scattered protest actions in which they bang pots and pans to make noise near sites Macron and his government members are visiting,” (PBS).

French President Emmanuel Macron has become increasingly unpopular among French citizens. US News explains that Macron used Article 43.9 of the French Constitution, which allowed him to pass the law without a parliamentary vote. This has exacerbated the anger of the French population. When Macron traveled to Lyon to honor the French Resistance Movement of World War II, gatherings around the ceremony were banned by the police. Unions called for demonstrations against the president in authorized areas of Lyon, where people banged pots and pans in protest. In a CNN interview with French political scientist Dominique Moisi, she states, “I don’t think in the history of the Fifth Republic, we have seen so much rage, so much hatred at our president. And I remember as a young student, I was in the streets of Paris in May ’68, and there was rejection of General de Gaulle but never that personal hatred.”

Although Macron is aware of the public’s opinion of the legislation, he has insisted that it was necessary. “Macron said he heard people’s anger but insisted that the law was needed to keep the pension system afloat as the population ages,” (PBS). While Macron claims he did what was necessary to support France’s economy, citizens are still unhappy. Protesters are continuing to oppose the legislation, one even telling CNN that they would fight until the reform is reversed.