Controversy Caused by the French Pension Reforms
A Touch of Margaret Thatcher in the Élysée
MB – 04/2023
is once again in turmoil and the French people are fighting back against
President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms.
The protest is being
expressed through large-scale demonstrations on the streets that are not always
non-violent. The French trade unions had a decisive influence over this.
But there was also no agreement in the French
parliament, which is why the president's government has taken a special path.
The French Constitutional Council approved the pension reforms as far as
possible on April 14, 2023 and it came into force on the
day after it was signed by the President.
Is there really a need to reform pensions?
actual retirement age in the general system is 62 years
of age for people born after 1955. Under this reform the entry age will be gradually raised
to 64 years as from September 2023 and this will be completed by 2030. The
number of contribution quarters – in France they call them trimesters – will
also be increased from 168 (42 years) to 172 (43 years) by 2027 as this number
of trimesters is needed for a pension without any deductions.
d'orientation des retraites” supervisory body does not consider the aforementioned
adjustments to be necessary from a purely financial point of view, because
revenues are and will remain stable. Whether the aforementioned objectives will
prove to be effective is questionable as the average
retirement age is already more than 62 years and the trend is continuing to rise.
Insured people will still be able to take early retirement if they entered
working life very early, have been insured for more than 40 years and had
already worked a certain number of trimesters before reaching the age of 16 -
Strong trade unions
A strong wind is blowing against
the president and his government through the united opposition of the French
trade unions, which are now united as rarely seen before. This is partly due to
the fact that the government was probably not willing to negotiate with the
This unity has resulted in the
unions successfully organising demonstrations that were either supported by all
workers or only by specific occupational groups that had an impact on the whole
of French society (e.g. railways, refuse collection, refineries).
The French president is sticking to his
objective, especially as the European Comission has also called for corresponding reforms to be
made in France. Macron wants to break the power of the trade unions like the
"Iron Lady" once did. The government was unable to get the reform
bill passed through parliament in the normal way, even though it was generally
assumed that together with the conservative republican Members of Parliament (MPs), they would have had
a corresponding majority in the National Assembly. The protests by the
population made the conservative MPs change their minds, which is why the
president invoked Art. 49.3 of the constitution which meant that the reform
could be passed without a parliamentary vote and this fuelled even more protests.
Approval by the Constitutional Council has
brought legal clarity, but the trial of strength will probably continue at the
political level and on the streets.