Paris is Burning

An overview of the French Pension Reform Strikes

Madison Clark, Editor-In-Chief

The French Pension Reform Strike has left Paris burning. Right now, there is civil unrest in the streets of France due to a bill that will increase the federal retirement age by two years. President Emmanuel Macron has previously been in favor of pension reform in France but has recently escalated the situation due to his bill increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64 years old. Since January 19, 2023, when the original bill was proposed, citizens in France have been growing in anger and demonstrations.

AP | President Emmanuel Macron

The pension reform system in France has been a major political division since it was passed into law. Many citizens take pride in their retirement system and it has been a cultural strongpoint throughout French history. The idea of their system is to take out mandatory charges for each paycheck from workers in order to fund the retirement system. However, President Macron and the Renaissance Political Party believe that there are major flaws in the system that need to be corrected in order for it to remain financially stable. These considerations include a raised life expectancy across the country as well as a disproportionate ratio of workers to retirees. Even though the President finds these challenges vital to change right now, many other political figures disagree with him. The New York Times writes, “The official body that monitors France’s pension system has acknowledged that there is no immediate threat of bankruptcy and that long-term deficits were hard to accurately predict.” These proposed changes to the pension system have led to frustration for many citizens in France.

Daniel Cole/AP | Parisians Protesting on the Street

Mass hysteria and widespread protests began when this bill was being processed. In France, a bill must pass through the Senate and then the National Assembly in order to be made into law. The problem for Macron, however, was the National Assembly is divided between parties. He didn’t have the number of votes necessary to approve the bill. This caused him to enact Article 49.3 of the France Constitution; this article states that he can bypass the National Assembly vote and force a no-confidence vote. Even though the no-confidence vote proved to fail and the bill was not passed, citizens have not stopped protesting.  These actions enraged many French citizens because the overwhelming majority believe that this was an infringement of their rights and not democratic. 

The protesting has been concentrated mostly in Paris and surrounding areas and has gained a lot of media attention. Pictures and videos of Paris streets lined with garbage, angry protestors shouting in the streets, and fires in public areas have all been shared on social media. Some protesting has even turned into riots leading to police involvement. Over 1 million people have taken to the streets in order to protest the French government. The people in France have been a part of mass work strikes. The unions in France have been fighting tirelessly to fight back against the government. On Wednesday, April 5, 2023, five of the nation’s largest unions met with the Prime Minister in order to begin negotiations and fight for their worker’s rights. The talks ended without any real progress. According to Sophie Binet, a representative for the CGT union stated, “We decided to put an end to this useless meeting…The prime minister has chosen to send us back to the streets.” This has been a call to action for many Parisians and more protests are beginning to form and likely will not end until major changes have been made.