France catches on fire as protesters push back against the forced pension reform. On Thursday, March 16, 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron forced a bill through parliament to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 . It passed without a vote, causing public outrage. The new pension reform was highly un-favored by the National Assembly because it  required two additional years of work before retirement.  

Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne announced Macron would enact the bill using special constitutional powers. This declaration was met with firm disapproval and jeering as lawmakers sang the French National Anthem “La Marseillaise” and held signs reading “No to 64.”

Opposing lawmakers such as Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party, suggested the Prime Minister step down.   

Street fires and protests began in the capital city of Paris and spread across every major city in France. French citizens took to the streets with violent demonstrations against the imposed policy. Protesters set tires on fire and threw plastic bottles at police barricades. The protesters declared, “This retirement reform is brutal, unjust, unjustified for the world of workers.” 

In response, police released tear gas and water cannons. Over 300 citizens were detained. 

Union leaders called for further protests and strikes demanding reversed action. 

On Friday morning, commute delays were caused by a gathering of protesters blocking Paris’ road. The visual aftermath lingered as trash bags littered the streets. Labor and Public workers continued their strike refusing to clean up the city. Six thousand tons of waste left on the streets. 

Budget Minister Gabriel Attal states “If we don’t do [the reforms] today, it’s much more brutal measures that we will have to do in future.” 

With the surging cost of living, the right to retire with a full pension at 62 is highly valued. However, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, France spends about 14% of economic output on the country’s pensions, with one of the youngest retirement ages.

Macron’s agenda aims to make the French economy “more competitive.” The increased retirement age will put more money in the system which is currently running on a deficit. However, to earn a full pension the reform requires 43 years of work.

Millions of French workers including teachers and laborers have contributed to the eight consecutive national strikes in the past three months. A majority of the French citizens support the protest movement.  


Originally Published 3/20/2023