France Braces for Further Protests Over Retirement Age Increase

After Tuesday walk-outs, unions are calling for massive demonstrations this weekend.


France continues to see mass protests after the government announced plans to raise the country’s retirement age and is bracing for more.

On January 10, French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans to reform the country’s pension system, which includes the controversial proposal of raising the retirement age for French workers to 64 from 62.

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All French retirees currently receive a state pension that averages about €1,400 ($1,527) per month, funded by contributions from current workers. The French government says reform is needed because the system is being jeopardized by an aging population that has resulted in an increasing number of retirees supported by a decreasing number of contributors.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, France has one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialized world and spends nearly 14% of its economic output on pensions, more than most countries.

Under the French government’s plan, the retirement age will be raised by three months per year, starting in September 2023, until it reaches the target age of 64 in 2030. The reforms also mean that, beginning in 2027, it will be necessary to have worked 43 years to receive a full pension; in past reforms, that requirement would not phase in until 2035.

In a first wave of protests on January 19, an estimated 1.12 million marchers came out to protest. The second wave, which came nearly two weeks later, produced an estimated crowd of 1.27 million, and Tuesday’s protests saw more than 750,000 work-day protesters, with figures according to France’s interior ministry.

However, French trade union Confédération Générale du Travail claims more than 2.5 million workers came out to protest on January 31 and that nearly 2 million people came out on January 19 and on Tuesday. CGT also said there will be additional strikes and demonstrations on Saturday.

“Nothing justifies such an unjust and brutal reform,” reads a CGT statement. “The government must hear the massive rejection of this project and withdraw it.”

The trade unions also lashed out at an email the minister of transformation and the public service sent to public officials and employees presenting a list of arguments in favor of pension reform, which said, “The age of departure at 64 is no longer negotiable.”

The unions countered by saying that lowering the retirement age has “never been negotiable” for them.

“The inter-union calls on the entire population to mobilize through strikes and even more massive demonstrations on Tuesday February 7 and then Saturday February 11 to say no to this reform,” a CGT statement reads. “It calls, in the meantime, to multiply the actions, initiatives, meetings or general assemblies everywhere on the territory, in the companies and services, in the places of study, including by the strike.”

When Macron ran for re-election last year, he made raising the retirement age among his top campaign promises, originally looking to raise the age to 65 before suggesting compromise late in the campaign. Meanwhile, his challenger, populist Marine Le Pen, proposed lowering the retirement age to 60. Macron defeated Le Pen in a runoff with 58.5% of the votes to 41.5%; he had defeated her 66.1% to 33.9% in the previous presidential election in 2017.


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