Official sources estimate that over 1m people hit the streets in France last week to protest President Macron’s proposed pension reforms, which would see the pension age move from 62 to 64. The unions claim the figure was closer to 2 million. Further protests are planned for January 31.
The issue is as contentious as it is because practically all French people rely on the state pension. Occupational pensions are almost non-existent. Public sector workers have a pension of around 75% of their previous salary, private sector workers, about 50%. The minimum pension is being raised from €1,100 to €1,200.
40 years ago, President Mitterrand reduced the pension age to 60, at the same time as he introduced the 35-hour week, so French workers could have “more time to live”. Since, then the pension age has been creeping back up. Even when the current reforms go through, French workers will still retire earlier than workers almost anywhere else in Europe.
The general secretary of the hardline CGT told journalists over the weekend that the protests would continue as long as possible and could run into the school holidays in February. He also said he would have no problem if power workers cut the supply to the homes of billionaires such as Vincent Bollore.