France just raised the retirement age by two years and people are furious

This a battle which has been going on for months already. The French retirement age is 62, one of the lowest in Europe. Since January, President Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne have been saying they would push to increase the retirement age to 64 or 65.

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With one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialized world, France also spends more than most other countries on pensions at nearly 14% of economic output, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development…

“The aim is to balance the accounts without raising taxes or cutting pensions. Various options are on the table, but all include raising the retirement age,” government spokesman Olivier Veran told journalists.

But balancing the accounts is never popular and especially not in France where street protests are an art form. Earlier this month there were nationwide strikes and “largely peaceful” protests of up to a million people.

All of that was prior to today when Prime Minister Borne announced the retirement age would rise to 64. Not only that but the change is being made under Macron’s special constitutional powers without a vote in the National Assembly.

French President Emmanuel Macron will trigger special constitutional powers to enact the proposed pension reform bill, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced Thursday in the National Assembly, which had not yet voted on the proposal.

“We cannot bet on the future of our pensions,” Borne said amid jeers and chants from lawmakers. “This reform is necessary.”

Labor leaders in France called for new demonstrations following Borne’s announcement, and a large crowd of peaceful protesters gathered in Paris’ Place de la Concorde.

“By resorting to [constitutional article] 49.3, the government demonstrates that it does not have a majority to approve the two-year postponement of the legal retirement age,” tweeted Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, one of the unions leading the protests.

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Here’s the scene where Borne made the announcement while some attempted to drown her out.

She eventually did make the announcement by shouting over the protests. It’s reminiscent of Stanford Law School.

In case you’re wondering, Article 49.3 is not some special power adopted during the pandemic, it’s a section of the French constitution which was adopted in 1958. Since then it has been used more than 90 times according to Wikipedia. It sounds like the Assembly could overrule this by voting for a motion of censure but that would also require the resignation of the government and apparently no motion of censure in response to an invocation of 49.3 has ever passed.

The Washington Post points to some of the reasons why this change is not extraordinary compared to France’s neighbors, even if the many don’t like it.

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France has a lower minimum retirement age than many of its European neighbors, where laws similar to the one proposed by Macron have prompted less divisive debates. Germany, for instance, is preparing for an increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67, and lawmakers there have faced little public backlash.

This chart created by the Post shows French retirees have the most years in retirement of any European country:

Despite all of this, protesters are outraged and are gathering in the streets.

Fires are being lit and Macron, Borne and others are being burned in effigy.

This looks like the same spot a bit later.

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Police eventually arrived to move people out.

But fires have been set elsewhere in the streets.

This is probably just getting started. I’ll update this post later if I see anything significant.

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Jazz Shaw 9:20 AM | April 19, 2024
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