Large-scale protests continue in France against the pension reform, originally announced by President Emmanuel Macron back in 2019. The retirement age is planned to be raised from 62 to 64, and this idea has so many opponents that the country’s government decided to reform it bypassing parliament. The cabinet is now awaiting a no-confidence vote.
The French Senate, where Emmanuel Macron’s supporters hold a strong majority, supported a bill to raise the retirement age on the morning of March 16 with 193 votes to 114. However, before the start of voting in the National Assembly, where the ruling party lost the majority after the 2022 elections, Prime Minister Elisabeth Bornet announced that the law will be signed bypassing Parliament.
The French Constitution provides for such an opportunity: the government can announce the adoption of any law without discussion in parliament, after which dissenting deputies have 24 hours to call a vote on a vote of no confidence in the government (at least 10% of parliamentarians must vote for this). If at the general vote this proposal is supported by more than half of the deputies, the government automatically resigns and the law is repealed.
Voting is expected to take place within the next week. A vote of no confidence will presumably be voted in full force by both the left and right opposition, and its outcome will depend on the vote of deputies of the center-right Republican Party, which is not in opposition to Macron and his government. The leaders of the Republicans declaredthat they will not support a vote of no confidence, however, individual deputies of the faction can join it. It takes about half of the votes of the Republicans to dismiss the government.
The procedure for passing a law bypassing Parliament – frequent practice in France: for example, the current government of Elisabeth Bornet has already used it ten times, and in more than 60 years of the current French Constitution, there have been about a hundred such cases. However, only once, in 1962, a law adopted in this way was repealed by a vote of no confidence in the government.
Protests against pension reform in France have been going on for two months
Organized by trade unions, regular protests against pension reform have been going on in France since mid-January, when the bill was first officially introduced. Once again, rallies were held across the country on Wednesday, March 15, the day before the planned final vote. According to the police, 480,000 people took part in them, while the unions that organized them estimated the number of participants at 1.8 million.
Promotions March 15 accompanied the strike, which was attended by teachers, port workers, employees of the oil refining sector, transport workers. More than 40% of intercity trains and dozens of flights have been cancelled.
No large-scale demonstrations were planned for Thursday, March 16, but after the government’s decision to refuse to vote in parliament, several thousand people took to the streets in central squares in Paris and other major cities.
Many protesters were aggressive and clashed with the police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. As a result, 310 people were detained per day, 258 of them in Paris. On the evening of Friday 17 March in the center of Paris passed new clashes between protesters and police, following which the authorities reported 61 arrests.
The following nationwide actions are unions planned on March 23rd.
France has one of the lowest retirement ages among developed countries. His promotion was one of the key points of Macron’s program.
The government of Emmanuel Macron planned the pension reform back in 2019: then this idea also caused protests, but in the end it was postponed – not only because of opposition from society, but because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. During the presidential campaign for a second presidential term, Macron promised return to this initiative. Announcing the reform anew in a New Year’s address to the nation ahead of 2023, he said it would “balance the system for years and decades to come.”
Now the retirement age in France is one of the lowest among all developed countries. For example, in Germany and the UK people retire at an average age of 66, in the USA and Australia – from 67, in Canada – from 65, while in most countries it is regularly increased. France annually spends 14% of GDP on the maintenance of pensioners; throughout the European Union, this figure is higher only in Italy and Greece.
In Russia, as part of the reform adopted in 2018, a gradual increase in the retirement age continues. In 2023, it is 58 for women and 63 for men. By the end of the transition period in 2028, these figures will reach 60 and 65 years, respectively.
The last time the retirement age in France was raised was in 2010, when Nicolas Sarkozy’s government raised it from 60 to 62 years. It also led to mass protests – for three months, from several hundred thousand to several million people took to the streets every week.
At that time, the government refused to make concessions to the protesters, and changes to the legislation were adopted with minimal amendments. This eventually led to the strengthening of the positions of the socialists and the extreme right, and, according to estimates electoral analysts, was one of the reasons why Sarkozy failed to win re-election in the 2012 elections.