While the government of President Emmanuel Macron has worked to push through reform of the national pension system, France has witnessed weeks of slowly rising tensions. Some people view these reforms as a blow to the French welfare state, and they have proven to be quite divisive. Mint analyses the uproar as large protests erupt and Macron’s political position is put in jeopardy.
The extensive welfare and pension systems in France are at the centre of the debate. The nation has traditionally taken pride in its ability to support pensioners through extensive social protection programmes.
Nonetheless, the French pension system is infamously difficult. It is divided into 42 sections depending on various economic areas, to start. According to President Macron, the system is also prohibitively expensive. Some have warned that as the nation ages, a multibillion dollar hole is projected to open up as the working population declines and the number of retirees taking pensions rises.
For precisely this reason, a number of French presidents have made unsuccessful attempts to alter the nation’s welfare system. In 2019, Macron made an effort to streamline the pension system, but this only led to the biggest demonstrations France has seen since 1968.
His most recent attempt has met with similar resistance. The retirement age in France will increase from 62 to 64 thanks to Macron’s policies, which would also reduce benefits for some employees of the public sector.
Both the changes’ content and Macron’s method of rule are debatable. The majority of French citizens view him as arrogant, obstinate, and impatient. When he drove his reforms through without a vote in parliament, this impression was strengthened.
In response, protests and strikes have spread across the country. Strong unions in France have protested Macron’s actions, and several unions in the public sector have also gone on strike. More than a million people have protested in the streets.
There have been violent protests in various locations. The city hall door in Bordeaux was set on fire and public property was vandalised. Several people have accused security forces of using excessive force during the police crackdown, which has also been harsh.
Several surveys indicate that the French population is generally sympathetic to the protestors’ concerns. But, Macron has dug his heels in and refused to abandon the reforms, a move that has further accentuated his tyrannical persona.
The protests have also affected international policy. King Charles of Britain postponed his trip to France due to the unrest and conflict that was roiling the country.