Pensions in France: Protests erupt as government forces pension age hike

Paris (CNN) The French government has imposed controversial plans to raise the country’s retirement age from 62 to 64, a move likely to ignite the weeks-long protest movement in the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron will trigger special constitutional powers to enact the pension reform bill, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced Thursday in the National Assembly, which had yet to vote on the proposal.

“We can’t bet on the future of our pensions,” Borne said amid mockery and chanting from lawmakers. ‚ÄúThis reform is necessary.

Union leaders in France have called for further protests after Borne’s announcement, with several thousand people converging on Place de la Concorde in Paris and several other cities across France on Thursday evening.

“By resorting to [constitutional article] 49.3, the government demonstrates that it does not have a majority to approve the two-year postponement of the legal retirement age”, tweeted Laurent Berger, boss of the CFDT, one of the unions at the leading the protests.

CGT union leader Philippe Martinez also called for more strikes and protests, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV.

Massive protests have taken place regularly across France since mid-January, with millions turning out to voice their opposition to the government’s plan. Mass strikes have hit transport and education, while in the Parisian capital, uncollected rubbish piles up in the streets.

The government has argued that reform is needed to keep pension system finances out of the red for years to come.

“The aim is to balance the books without raising taxes or cutting pensions. Various options are on the table, but all include raising the retirement age,” government spokesman Olivier Veran said. to reporters in January, according to Reuters.

A constitutional solution

The pension reform bill passed the French Senate earlier on Thursday but is not expected to pass the National Assembly – the country’s lower house of parliament – where lawmakers were due to vote this afternoon.

The session was stopped early for Borne’s announcement. Lawmakers erupted in chaotic scenes as she explained the government’s decision, struggling to be heard as lawmakers sang the French national anthem ‘La Marseillaise’ and others held signs reading ‘No to 64 “.

Borne also criticized far-right lawmakers in the lower house for failing to back the legislation.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party, called on the prime minister to step down.

“After the slap that the Prime Minister has just given the French, by imposing a reform which they do not want, I think that Elisabeth Borne should leave”, tweeted Le Pen on Thursday.

Plans to raise the retirement age sparked widespread protests

Pension reform in France, where the right to a full pension at age 62 is deeply rooted, is still a very sensitive subject and even more so today with social discontent mounting over the soaring cost of living. .

But with one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialized world, France also spends more than most countries on pensions, at nearly 14% of economic output, according to the Organization for Cooperation and Development. economic development.

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