Strikes Over France’s Proposed Retirement Reforms Continue

Global HR

​Strikes have continued over the proposal by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government to put its pension system on firmer financial footing by raising the retirement age from 62 years old to 64. We’ve gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Widespread Protests

On March 7, workers walked out of schools, refineries, power plants, airports and transportation systems in the biggest protests yet. Since the government announced the proposal in January, protests have drawn millions into the streets, not only in Paris but across the country.

French senators voted March 9 in favor of raising the retirement age to 64. Macron hopes parliament will adopt his plan by the end of the month. For years, he has tried to reform the pension system.

(The New York Times, Reuters and CNBC)

Rolling Strike

The March 7 mobilization was an escalation in the move to stop the pension overhaul. Unions—including the CGT—touted the walk outs as an open-ended standoff with Macron over the retirement reform plans. “This is the first day of a new phase with new marching orders: Halt the country,” said CGT leader Philippe Martinez. The CGT—the General Confederation of Labor (Confédération Générale du Travail)—is France’s second largest union. It was founded in 1895 and represents more than 700,000 members.

Macron’s proposed overhaul was one of the main planks of his re-election campaign last year, but the French public are opposed to the recommended reforms according to a recent poll. So far, the government has shown no sign of backing down. French Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt noted that other countries in Europe have recently increased the retirement age. Spanish and German workers will retire at 67 by 2027 and 2031 respectively.

(The Wall Street Journal and Reuters)

Strikes Highlight Effect of Proposed Reforms on Women

Protests focusing on the effect of the reforms on women coincided with International Women’s Day on March 8. The reforms would require 43 years of work to earn a full pension. The government says the current system will go into deficit within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancy lengthens. Feminist activists see the proposed pension reforms as unfair to women because they say it would deepen gender inequalities.

(The Washington Post)

Rationale for the Proposal

The government believes the only way to support the pension system is to make the French work longer. Workers and employers pay mandatory payroll taxes that are used to fund state pensions, but the ratio of workers to retirees has dropped sharply as life expectancy has increased. In 2000, there were 2.1 workers paying into the system for every one retiree, a number that fell to 1.7 in 2020.

(The New York Times)

Gradual Increase in Retirement Age

The Macron government in January proposed a gradual increase in the retirement age starting in September, at the rate of three months per year of birth. It would thus be 63 years and three months in 2027 at the end of the five-year term, then would reach the target of 64 years in 2030.

(SHRM Online)

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