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French court approves contentious plans to raise country’s pension age

The highest court of France has approved controversial plans to increase the retirement age in France.

The Constitutional Council of France has approved the government’s reforms that will increase the retirement age from 62 years old to 64.

The plans sparked protests when the government of president Emmanuel Macron invoked Article 49.5 to force through the changes without a vote from MPs last week.

France’s retirement age is 62, which is lower than most of its European neighbors. The UK has a retirement age of 66; Germany, Italy, and Spain have 67.


After the announcement of the court decision, protesters and police clashed. Teargas was used against a group in Lyon. Bikes were also set ablaze in the French capital Paris.

The bill will be signed into law by Mr Macron in the next few days. He has called the reforms “a necessity” to save France’s pension system.

According to France’s labor minister, the law will come into effect at the start of September. The country’s unions, however, have asked Mr Macron to not sign the bill.

CGT, one of France’s biggest unions, said that its leaders would no longer be willing to engage in discussions with the President if he approves the pension reforms.

Photo: Image of police officers guarding the entrance to the Constitutional Council. Photo: AP

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Will French pension strikes continue?

This comes after almost 400,000 protesters marched in France’s streets on Thursday to protest the proposals.

Demonstrations have been ongoing for weeks, and sometimes the protests turned violent with demonstrators fighting with police.

On Thursday, protesters stormed LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s (LVMH), which represents Christian Dior and Fendi as well as Givenchy.

Demonstrations were also held in cities and towns across the country, including Rennes where an Mercedes was set ablaze.

What retirement age is in France and how has it changed?

France’s retirement age is 62, which is lower than most of its European neighbors.

French workers are entitled to a pension at the age of 62. However, if they have not paid the required amount of contributions, the pension will be reduced.

At 67 years old, the state pension is paid in full regardless of contributions.

Protests against pension plans
Image: Demonstrators marching during a demonstration on Thursday in Lyon
Image: Demonstrators watch a burning vehicle during a demonstration in the city of Toronto on Thursday

The age at which workers are eligible for a pension will increase from 60 to 64 as a result of Mr Macron’s reforms.

The transition will take place gradually, three months per year between September 2023 and September 2030.

In 2027, the number of years that someone must contribute to receive a full state pension will go up from 42 to 43.

Those who want to stop pension reforms will have no chance.

Lisa Holland

Communities correspondent


The French Constitutional Council’s decision is bitterly disappointing for those who have struggled and participated in weekly demonstrations, as well as those who went on strike without pay and have gone on strike.

The road is over. From a legal standpoint, it is a line drawn in the sand.

The legal crisis may be over, but President Macron still faces a political crisis. There are many, angry people who feel that they were not listened to and that the French Government did not care about them.

They’re also disappointed that not only will the pension age be raised from 62 years old to 64, they also won’t get a referendum that they had also requested so that they can have a voice and a vote.

The President Macron said there was no winner or loser, but those who were involved in a strike at the protest I’m currently in in central Paris have stated that they will continue their strike and are determined to stop it.

This means France loses because the city will be plagued by protests, demonstrations and violence.

French workers, however, have responded with fury. Unions are proud of France’s pension system.

The changes have also caused anger among those who are approaching retirement age. They say that the changes will ruin their plans for retirement.

What is Macron’s argument ?

France’s generous social state has long been a burden on the workforce and economy.

In the third quarter 2022, the national debt was 113.4% GDP, which is higher than the UK (100.2%) and Germany (66.6%), but similar to the struggling economies of Spain (115.6%), Portugal (120.1%) and other countries.

This also means that the workforce is shrinking. In France, there are now only 1.7 employees for every retiree. This is down from 2.1 workers in 2000.

Sky News quoted David S Bell, professor emeritus of French government at Leeds University, as saying that this was Macron’s flagship.

“He wants it to be done before he leaves office at the end this term.

“But the issue is not an immediate crisis. It’s a burden that will be borne in the future based on projected economic growth.” This is the opposite of the way politics usually works. They focus on immediate and headline-grabbing topics.

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His argument is that the country will not be able afford it if these reforms and a longer French working life aren’t made.

Speaking on French television during strikes, Mr Macron said: “This is not a luxury or a pleasure. It’s a necessary reform.” The longer we delay, the worse [the deficit] gets.

What is happening now?

The highest court of the French Constitutional Council has given the green light to Mr Macron’s plans.

The nine-member council is composed of three people appointed by the President, three persons by the Head of the National Assembly (lower chamber of parliament), three persons by the Head of the Senate (upper chamber of parliament).

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Protesters storm Louis Vuitton’s HQ

They are mainly former lawyers, businesspeople, senior civil servants, and ex-politicians. They oversee the final approval of any new law and determine whether it adheres with the constitution.

Unions have one last option to stop this bill from passing – they can hold a referendum. But to do so, they must get approval both from the council and at least 10% of the voters in the next nine-month period.

Since its introduction in 2015, it hasn’t been used successfully.

The government hopes that the approval of these plans will end the nationwide protests. There is no guarantee that the protests will stop.


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