France's Pension Reform to be Enacted Despite Widespread Protests and Strikes

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Despite months of protests and strikes, French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform has been approved by the Constitutional Council. The reform, which raises the retirement age to 64 from 62, has been met with widespread opposition and spontaneous protests broke out when the Council’s decision was announced. Protesters gathered outside Paris City Hall and burned trash bins while chanting anti-Macron slogans. Opinion polls show that a vast majority of French citizens reject the policy changes and are unhappy with the government’s decision to push the bill through parliament without a final vote.

French trade unions are calling on Macron to show “wisdom” and withdraw the reform. In a joint statement, they said that this is “the only way to soothe the anger in the country.” However, officials have ignored their request and plan to turn the legislation into law in the coming days, with Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt stating that it should come into force on September 1 as planned. Macron has urged the country to “move forward, work, and face the challenges that await us,” indicating that he is looking to focus on other reforms.

Opposition leaders and trade unions have vowed to continue protesting and have rejected Macron’s offer to organize a meeting with them on Tuesday. They are planning protests on international workers’ day on May 1st. Political analysts have suggested that the discontent over the government’s reform could have long-term repercussions, including a boost for the far right. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has urged voters to back those who oppose the reform in the next election so that they can scrap it.

The pension system is a cornerstone of France’s social protection model and trade unions believe that the money can be found elsewhere, including by taxing the rich more heavily. Although attention has focused on the retirement age of 62, only 36% of French workers retire at that age, and another 36% retire older due to requirements to pay into the system for at least 42 years in order to be eligible for a full pension. According to OECD figures based on 2020 data, the normal retirement age for a French worker who started working at the age of 22 was 64.5, slightly higher than the EU average of 64.3.

In conclusion, Macron’s pension reform has been approved by the Constitutional Council despite widespread opposition from citizens, trade unions, and the opposition. The reform’s focus on raising the retirement age has been met with protests and strikes, and opponents have called for the government to withdraw it. While Macron is looking to focus on other reforms, trade unions and opposition leaders are planning to continue their protests and have vowed to fight the reform. The controversy surrounding the reform could have long-term repercussions for French politics, including the potential for a boost for the far right.

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