Millions Protest Higher Retirement Age In France

On Thursday, an estimated 1.1 million people rallied in Paris and other French towns against proposals to increase the retirement age. Yet, President Emmanuel Macron said he would proceed with the retirement modifications.

French unions scheduled further rallies and demonstrations on Jan. 31 to try to stop the administration from raising the retirement age to 64.

Macron thinks the measure, a major pillar of his reelection campaign vital to maintaining the pension scheme, is financially sustainable, but unions warn it undermines hard-fought labor rights.


Macron, in Barcelona for a French-Spanish summit, recognized popular unhappiness, but stressed that reform was necessary to “rescue” French pensions.

As Macron addressed, riot police confronted protestors hurling objects on the outskirts of the peaceful Paris march. Officers used tear gas after a few small disturbances.

Paris police reported 38 individuals were detained as a massive mob thronged the streets in cold weather, taking hours to arrive at their destination. Retirees, even young adults, joined the mixed gathering in dread and indignation about the reform.

Macron’s administration thinks the change is the only option to save a country with an aging population and rising life expectancy. Unions suggest a wealth tax or higher company payroll contributions to fund the pension system.

Macron’s idea was publicly criticized on Thursday, with polls showing most French people opposing it. Strikes and more than 200 demonstrations around France interrupted transit, schools, as well as other government services.

The Interior Ministry reported 1.1 million protesters, including 80,000 in Paris. Unions claimed two million countrywide and 400,000 in Paris.

During Macron’s initial term and under Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, large crowds protested retirement reform. Per the official estimates, none gathered over one million people. The Paris audience included high school students.

Prolonged strikes might slow the economy at a time when France is striving to fight inflation and improve GDP. While on duty, police unions protested the pension reform.

Shutdowns and Criteria

Approximately 20% of Paris Orly Airport flights were rescheduled; most train services in France, even international ones, were suspended.

The Education Ministry reported more than a third of educators were on strike and EDF stated power supplies were significantly curtailed Thursday.

The Louvre Museum shuttered certain exhibition rooms while the Versailles Palace halted Thursday. Philippe Martinez, general secretary of the hard-left CGT union, advised Macron to “hear to the street.”

The centrist CFDT union’s Laurent Berger termed the measure “unfair” and Thursday’s protest a warning. The pension plan will be presented to Parliament next month by the French government on Monday. Strikes and demonstrations will determine its success.

Left and right-wing opposition parties fiercely oppose the initiative. Macron’s centrist coalition lost its legislative majority last year, but still has the largest group at the Legislative Council. It expects to work with conservative Republicans to pass pension reforms.

The anticipated adjustments require people to have worked 43 years to get a full pension. The retirement age would remain 67 for people who do not meet that criterion, such as those women who took time off to have kids or those who schooled for a long period and started working late.

Workers under 20 and those with serious health concerns might retire early.

This article appeared in The Political Globe and has been published here with permission.