In the spring, millions of people in France protested against Macron's presidential reform - despite the fact that the new retirement age in the country, 64, is still lower than the global average. Pictured: Police officers prepare for the arrival of the demonstration train in Bordeaux. Photo: Vendela Hammarbäck.


Global trend with a higher retirement age - but the majority in France is against it

Since January of this year, the French population has protested against a political reform that raises the retirement age in the country from 62 to 64 years, despite the fact that the global average retirement age is 65 years. However, it was want to themselves the increase of pensionsthe age that most angered the French population, but the way the bill passed—by the French government bypassed the French Assemblée Nationale to get the proposal through.

When French President Emmanuel Macron decided, along with his government, to raise the retirement age without going through the proposal with the rest of the National Assembly, protests and demonstrations erupted all over France. March 23, the ninth day of protests since they broke out in January, was one of the days when the demonstrations were at their largest. In total, between one to three and a half million people have demonstrated in a total of 300 cities in the country. Of those, 110 people of all ages were on the streets of Bordeaux, according to the local newspaper South West.

The protesters in Bordeaux shouted various chants, shouted into megaphones, danced to music and fired rockets during the demonstration. What looked from a distance to be a real folk festival was instead people who mobilized to stand up for their freedom of expression and democratic values. But the protests in larger cities have ended in violence between police and demonstrators, and during the evening of March 23, a fire at the entrance to the town hall in Bordeaux.

Two thirds of the population are against the reform

In the French constitution, article 49 is found, which the government has full power to use. The article allows bills to pass the National Assembly, Assemblée Nationale, without a vote. It is the third clause of Article 49 which allows the Prime Minister, "after deliberation by the Council of Ministers", to force a bill through which the rest of the MPs have the opportunity to present a motion of no confidence within 24 hours. If a majority in parliament votes for a motion of no confidence, the law is repealed and the risk of the government's collapse is high, but if it is rejected, the government wins its gamble and is thus adopted the new bill.

It is not the first time as French President Emmanuel Macron, or one of the country's previous presidents, has used Article 49.3. That is, since it was first introduced 1958, the 100th time it has been used, twelve of which have occurred under Macron's current government. Already in 2020 pension reform came up in connection with article 49.3 when the then prime minister under Macron, Édouard Philippe, tried to replace France's pension system with a system that was more similar to that of other countries. However, Macron then had to pause the deliberations due to the outbreak of the corona pandemic.

But the 2023 pension reform is so far the most controversial and attention-grabbing use of Article 49.3. Two-thirds of the French population is against the pension reform, and it is precisely the use of Article 49.3 that has empowered both the opposition and the unions around the country which sees Macron's action as undemocratic.

- Article 49,3 is the final straw. I mean it is the embodiment of several weeks of authoritarianism and a denial of democracy, one protester told the French news channel France24.

Even students get involved in the pension issue. The banner reads "Students against this deadly reform". Photo: Vendela Hammarbäck.
Increased retirement age in line with increased life expectancy

Globally speaking retirement ages differ from country to country and it is difficult to compare the ages internationally as, among other things, how much money you get in retirement and life expectancy also differ. In some countries, many people work in the informal sector and do not have access to any public pension system.

Retiring at age 65 is the one most common age in the world, above all within the EU countries, and is applied by countries such as Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Canada and Chile. Those who live in Denmark, Greece, Italy and Iceland work the longest, where both men and women only retire at the age of 67. In many countries, the retirement age differs between the sexes. In Indonesia, men retire at age 58, while women generally retire at 55. In Vietnam, the retirement age for men is 60 years and 55 years for women, and in Israel the retirement age for men is 67 years and for women 62 years.

An increase in retirement ages worldwide is seen as necessary because people are living longer. Between 1960 and 2010 increased lifespan for a person aged 65, living in the so-called OECD countries, with approximately 3,9 years for men and 5,4 years for women. The increase in the retirement age goes hand in hand with the increase in life expectancy, and this is one of Macron's main arguments for a higher retirement age.

Protesters on the avenue d'Alsace-et-Lorraine in central Bordeaux. On the road, trams usually run, but during demonstrations they are cancelled. Photo: Vendela Hammarbäck.

Macron believes that the pension reform is necessary to avoid labor shortages in the coming decades as a result of France's aging population and the fact that there is already a large proportion of pensioners in the country. On the other hand, opponents of the reform believe that it will mean injustice for women, low-income earners and people who perform physically demanding work.

- If you have already worked for 44 years like me, there are other things in life than work. Life is already relatively short, says a reform opponent DW News.

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