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Conflict over pension reform in France continues

2023.04.20 06:43:41 Minseo Kim

[Eiffel Tower, Photo Credit to Rawpixel]

As conflict over pension reform escalates, the French government decided to enforce the special constitutional power “Article 49.3” to pass the bill on pension reform. 

The French government announced a new pension reform plan on January 19th. 

The new pension reform mainly addressed the extension of the retirement age to 64, two years older than the current retirement age of 62. 

This announcement caused great uproar among French citizens and led to numerous strikes. 

Currently, the transportation systems in  France are very unstable due to roads and railways strikes. 

Train and subway services were suspended and 30% of all departures at Orly Airport were canceled.

Refineries also went on strike, resulting in an unprecedented shortage of gasoline and diesel in the southern part of France. 

The tourism industry wasn’t an exception; major tourist attractions including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles were all temporarily shut down. 

On March 23rd, the ninth demonstration against pension reform took place in 250 regions in France with an estimated 3.5 million participants, according to the General Confederation of Labour. 

The French Ministry of the Internal Affairs predicted that the scale of the 10th demonstration scheduled for the 28th would be even larger, and announced the largest-ever deployment of around 13,000 police. 

This decision was made out of growing concern over the fact that the protests were overheated during the 9th demonstration and caused numerous violent circumstances. 

During the march, the windows of shops, restaurants and banks were shattered by stones that  protesters threw. 

Police had to fire tear gas in an effort to stop these violent acts. 

It is reported that around 130 police officers were injured during the process of suppressing the protest and several reported arsons at the police stations. 

For the French, the current pension system has a great meaning and pride.

Emile Chabel, a historian of 20th century Europe explains “Pensions are very much part of the social contract in France that developed after the Second World War.”.

French people are claiming that the government’s pension reform violates the “social contract” that has been kept over 70 years between the government and the citizens : People work for the state up to a certain age, and the state in turn guarantees people’s welfare through pensions. 

Despite continued opposition and strikes, the French government is maintaining their firm stance about pension reform

The French government even ended up using the special constitutional power known as “Article 49.3” to pass the bill. 

“Article 49.3” indicates article 49, paragraph 3 of the French Constitution that states, “The government is allowed to pass a bill without a vote at the National Assembly after a deliberation at a cabinet meeting when it deems an emergency.”

In addition to the usage of constitutional power, French president Emmanuel Macron has expressed his strong will for this pension reform in several interviews. 

President Macron has emphasized the importance of pension reform in his interview with Le Monde, saying “Reform is not a luxury, it is not fun, it is a necessity for a country.” 

The reaction of the French people to the government’s stance is growing stronger, and it seems as though  the conflict will not be easily solved in the near future . 

Minseo Kim / Grade 10
The American International School of Muscat