2nd Round of Strikes and Pension Protests Hit France

January 31, 2023

A second round of strikes protesting French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plan sent demonstrators pouring into the streets all across France on Tuesday and reportedly brought Paris to a standstill.

Tuesday’s protests come as the French government plans to raise the national retirement age by two years—from 62 to 64—in order to qualify for a full pension. It’s part of a long delayed reform  to France’s pension system.

According to French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, the higher retirement age aims to tackle a deficit in France’s pension funds. The reforms are estimated to annually bring in about  €17.7 billion, or $19 billion, by 2030.

A first round of strikes and protests nearly two weeks ago drew between 1 million and 2 million demonstrators, including many tens of thousands in Paris. Labor leaders hoped to match or exceed those numbers Tuesday, with some 250 demonstrations set to take place across France. 

The government has mobilized some 11,000 officers to police the protests. 

In Paris, which is expected to take the brunt of the protests, more than 100 schools were closed Tuesday as 60% of the city’s teachers were expected to walk out, according to France’s major education union.

The city’s transport agency RATP also warned that metro and suburban rail services would be “very disrupted,” while the national railway would cancel some two-thirds of the high-speed TGV rail service and only 20% of the regional rails would be operational across France on Tuesday. 

Despite the mass protests, the Macron government is standing firm on its pension reforms. Raising the retirement age to 64 would still leave France below the norm in Europe, where the age at which once receives a full pension is increasingly moving toward 67.

France spends nearly 14% of its GDP on state pensions, one of the highest rates among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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