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Macron Defies Public Opinion With Pension Reform Vote

French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing for changes to the country’s pension system since he was elected in 2017, as a way to shore up the financial position of a graying society and keep France competitive.[0] The reform would progressively raise the retirement age, with the new minimum of 64 years expected to be reached by 2030.[1] It would also require 43 years of work as of 2027 to qualify for a full pension.[2] Opinion polls suggest up to 70% of French people oppose the changes, however, and the opposition has grown in recent weeks.[3]

The French Senate voted in favor of the controversial pension reform on Saturday, paving the way for a potential final adoption of the law on Thursday.[4] Macron resorted to a special provision of France’s constitution to bypass parliament and increase the country’s retirement age, an act of defiance that has further angered protesters.[5] The French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne tweeted that the move was a “decisive step to bring about a reform that will ensure the future of our pensions,” however, this sentiment is not shared by the public.[4]

France has seen its seventh-straight day of massive protests and labor strikes in opposition to the pension change, with about 6,600 tonnes of rubbish estimated to have built up in Paris.[4] The powerful CGT union said in a statement that workers in refuse, water, sewage and sanitation sectors of the City of Paris are stepping up their action, and the energy sector has also been hit hard.[6]

If the bill passes in parliament, it could have major repercussions for Macron’s second term.[7] The president is hoping to avoid a vote and has declared “We don’t want the 49.3,” but labor unions are calling for one final day of strikes and protests in the run-up to the vote. It remains to be seen if the pressure will be enough to topple the government and force Macron to change his mind.

0. “Protests Erupt in France Over Plan to Raise Retirement Age” The Wall Street Journal, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.wsj.com/story/protests-erupt-in-france-over-plan-to-raise-retirement-age-64bb4248

1. “Traffic, fuel, rubbish: France braces for yet another pension strike” The Connexion, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.connexionfrance.com/article/French-news/Traffic-fuel-rubbish-France-braces-for-yet-another-pension-strike

2. “French Senate adopts pension reform as street protests continue” POLITICO Europe, 12 Mar. 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/france-senate-pension-reform-labor-unions-protests-retirement-age-elisabeth-borne-emmanuel-macron/

3. “French Senate approves pension reform plan ahead of National Assembly vote” RFI English, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20230316-uncertainty-as-french-parliament-casts-final-vote-on-pension-reform

4. “French Senate passes unpopular pension reforms despite mass protests” The Week, 12 Mar. 2023, https://theweek.com/france/1021727/french-senate-passes-unpopular-pension-reforms-despite-mass-protests

5. “France Pension Bill: Macron to Force Through Reform Without Vote” Bloomberg, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-16/macron-government-to-force-through-pension-reform-without-vote

6. “France faces another day of strikes ahead of key vote on pension reforms” The Guardian, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/14/france-faces-another-day-of-strikes-ahead-of-key-vote-on-pension-reforms

7. “Why are pensions such a political flashpoint in France?” The Guardian, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/16/why-are-pensions-such-a-political-flashpoint-in-france-macron

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