By Warren Sternon

Edited by Eléonore Andre

Throughout history, the French have been quick to voice their dissatisfaction with governmental reforms that disadvantage them, enacting protests and strikes; propaganda is used as a political weapon, and the people are already circulating jokes over the internet regarding the French Revolution. This raises the question of whether this crisis could lead to a sort of revolution. 

On April 14th of 2023, French president Emmanuel Macron signed the pension reform into legislation, with title “Loi de financement rectificative de la sécurité sociale pour 2023” (“2023 Social Security Financing Adjustment Law”). The purpose of the legislation is to elevate the pension age from the current 62 years to 64 years of age. Furthermore, the pension reform will raise the necessary time for a pension from 42 years to 43 years of work, resulting in an average pension amount of €1,400 after tax. Immediately following the signature of this legislation, the people of France started marching the streets, supported by the different workers’ unions calling for a revocation. The people believe that with this reform, President Macron is “robbing” them of two years of freedom. However, Macron continues to oppose the people’s wishes, stating that the reform is an obligation in the eyes of the French economy. He mentions on multiple occasions that pension reform is required and is now attempting to negotiate other work-related issues with unions in order to repair his relations with the public.  

The French pension system works in the following way: the state pays the pensions of the current retirees and offsets that expense by collecting contributions from taxpayers. In other words, the younger, working generation pays elderly people until they themselves become pensioners, and so on. 

Illustration by Martin Stec

On the other hand, some positive aspects are mentioned to defend the implementation of the pension reform. All the arguments that are mentioned refer to France’s economical state; supposedly, this reform will result in a more stable economy. The premise is that, as a result of the demographic pyramid inversion, there are not enough young people to fund the pensions of the current pensioners. The decline in “young” workers has caused state pension spending to exceed revenue from pension payments. As a result, the argument goes, raising the retirement age will help offset rising costs while not necessitating an increase in payments. 

On the contrary, the pension reform makes it more difficult for people to receive a full pension. To be eligible for a full pension, a French worker would have to work until the age of 67 rather than 64. It is also frequently stated that pension reforms, in addition to the current state of the economy, make it more difficult for the French to afford a comfortable lifestyle. Expressing their opinion, the French people—80,000 in Paris and 1,000,000 throughout France—have rallied in protest of the pension reform. Certain polls have revealed that 70% of the entire French population expresses discontent with the pension reform; this has provided a platform for Macron’s political opponents to judge him “detached from reality” and accuse him of being “undemocratic.” 

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