French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 has sparked mass protests across the country. Young people, who have taken a leading role in the demonstrations, see the reform as unjust and emblematic of a broader erosion of social rights.
In Paris, FRANCE 24 spoke to young protesters about their concerns. Despite a lower turnout compared to previous rallies, the third day of nationwide protests saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets, disrupting public transport and schools.
Many young people, including teenagers, participated in the rallies in towns and cities across France. Although retirement may seem like a distant issue for young workers and students, their opposition to the reform is rooted in concerns about climate change, youth unemployment, societal reform, and the perceived erosion of France’s welfare model.
Yannaël, 24, studies medieval history at the Sorbonne University in Paris
This reform is unfair because it categorises physically arduous jobs the same as any other. I can understand the need to balance budgets when the population is getting older. But any reform must take into account the fact that some jobs are physically more demanding than others.
‘I can’t take any more’: Working-class French lament Macron’s push to raise retirement age
We should be able to live longer and in better health without working ourselves to death. Besides, if they’re talking about retiring at 64 now, what will it be when I’m 60? Will I have to work until I’m 70 or 75?
This is the first time I am protesting, because the government is pushing us too far. They refuse to listen to the people. (…) My aim is to become a teacher, but I’m worried I’ll be paid a pittance to do a difficult job with classes that are becoming ever-larger. That’s what I’m scared of and that’s why I’m out here protesting: to better our society and our future.
‘Will we work all our lives instead of working for a living?’
Amélie, 21, studies sociology at the university of Paris Cité
People say the young are lazy and don’t want to work – but it’s not true. My generation has been hit hard by Covid and the situation hasn’t improved. Most of my fellow students have to work to pay for their studies. And we have no guarantee we’ll find jobs with decent salaries after we graduate.
I think the government’s reform presents us with a false dilemma. There are other ways of financing our pension system, like taxing the ultra-rich, restoring the wealth tax that Macron’s government scrapped, and giving proper contracts to delivery workers who currently have no job protection and do not pay into the system. We could also hike wages and thereby increase pension contributions.
The vast majority of the French are opposed to this reform. It should be cancelled, full stop.