Protest in France Over Pension Reform Kicks Off in Style

Government Set to Implement Pension Reform, Widespread Disruption Expected

On January 19, 2023, the French government announced a pension reform plan that would extend the minimum retirement age to 64 years. This has caused widespread disruption across a range of sectors including public services, transport and infrastructure, with a resulting potential for unrest and protest.

The unions involved have declared that the measure will result in 750,000 people protesting across the country, and upwards of 80,000 people in Paris alone. This pension reform project, which was unveiled only last week, has been met with direct rejection from unions and the left-wing parties, including the far-right, while the only support is from the conservative party Los Republicanos.

In the transport sector, one flight out of five will be cancelled at the international airport of Orly, and high-speed rail services will be “strongly disturbed”, with the Paris-Barcelona line not working either. Metros and buses in large cities, such as those in the capital, will also suffer significant disruptions.

In terms of public services, schools will be affected, and essential facilities such as refineries will be impacted too. There are also reports of health professionals joining the strike, possibly adding to the disruption.

The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, has further warned of potential criminal activity specifically from a thousand people linked to an ultra-left group or from extreme “yellow vests”.

To combat this, 10,000 police officers have been called up to ensure that the day runs without incident; 3,500 of them will be stationed in Paris alone.

The government proposal is designed to support retirement, while the detractors of the project believe that taxing the ultra-rich and capital gains could provide even more funds.

The objective of the unions is that this could be the beginning of large mobilizations that would force the Executive to back down, similar to the situation in 1995 when a pension reform project with the then-President Jacques Chirac was withdrawn due to intense pressure from the street.

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