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In France, protests against proposed pension reforms have turned violent at the end of March and beginning of April, with clashes breaking out between protesters and police. The reforms, proposed by President Macron, aim to address the sustainability challenges of the country’s pay-as-you-go pension system. However, many workers feel that the reforms would unfairly target them, and the proposed changes have sparked significant opposition. The protests have disrupted transportation and other public services, and tensions remain high as the government and protesters continue to negotiate. Although the majority of demonstrators in Paris and Nantes chanted peacefully, there were reports of violence in some cities.
Like many developed countries, France has a significant wealth gap. According to a 2020 report from the World Inequality Database, the top 10% of French households hold 47% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 50% hold only 8%. Social mobility in France is relatively low, with children born to wealthy families much more likely to stay wealthy than those born to poor families. One area where social inequality is particularly evident in France is the pension system. The French pension system is a pay-as-you-go system, meaning that current workers fund the pensions of current retirees. This system has been in place since the 1940s and has been a key part of the French social welfare system. However, the system has become increasingly unsustainable due to demographic changes, with an aging population putting pressure on the system.
The most recent round of proposed reforms, put forward by Macron in 2019, sparked the largest strike in decades, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets. The protests against the pension reforms were driven by a number of factors. One was a sense of unfairness, with some workers feeling that the proposed changes would disproportionately affect them. For example, workers in certain professions, such as transport workers and teachers, would have had to work longer before retiring under the proposed reforms. Additionally, some argued that the reforms would exacerbate social inequalities, with low-income workers being hit hardest. Another factor driving the protests was a broader sense of discontent with President Macron’s government.
Macron, a centrist who was elected in 2017, has pursued a series of reforms aimed at liberalizing the French economy and reducing public spending. While some have praised these reforms as necessary to boost economic growth, others have criticized them as exacerbating social inequalities and eroding France’s social welfare system. The proposed pension reforms were seen by many as a further example of this trend.
Written by: Nenad Stekić