The 2023 Pension Protests in France

Written by Mahima Chhaparia

April 7, 2023

Affaires | Situation Room

France is no stranger to civil unrest and strike action over reforms regarding pension. The French pension system is based on a pay-as-you-go system. In the past, there have been multiple pension-related protests in France. In 2010, despite a wide range of protests, the government raised the retirement age from 60 to 62. The most recent protests happened in 2019, when the government proposed a reform aimed at creating a universal pension system. The protests lasted for weeks and the bill was shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The first national strike against President’s Emannuel Macron’s bill to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years was held on 19 January 2023. Since then, both the unions and the government have failed to reach a mutually accepted solution. This has led to 10 more days of national strike action over the last few months, the latest on 6 April 2023. Since January, these protests have hindered travel, via both air and rail. French Air traffic controllers have held over 30 days of strikes, leading to the cancellation of thousands of flights. Airlines including Ryanair and EasyJet, have called on the European Commission to intervene in the French situation. 

After the first wave of strikes and protests, the government used Article 49.3 of the French constitution to push the bill through the Parliament. The article allows the government to pass a bill without a vote, unless there is a vote of no-confidence. Despite two failed no-confidence votes, the bill carried through. This only gave way to more strikes and an increase in violence during protests. 

Pension protests in France have been a recurring event over the years, with both sides boasting some victories. There have been signs that the current protest movement is beginning to lose momentum, including the fall in the numbers on the streets. The final verdict will be revealed on 14 April by the Constitutional Council, which could deny parts of the bill or the bill as a whole. 

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