The Stream

Is France’s work-life balance under threat?

On Monday, March 13 at 19:30 GMT:
A plan by France’s president to raise the minimum retirement age has brought workers across the country to the streets and prompted labour unions to raise the prospect of open-ended strike action.

Police say at least 368,000 people in French cities and towns joined demonstrations on March 11 against Emmanuel Macron’s proposals to increase the age of eligibility for a state pension from 62 to 64 by 2030. At least 1.2 million people joined protests four days earlier.

As state pensions in France are funded by levies paid by workers and employers, Macron and French government ministers say raising the retirement age is the only way to ensure enough money is on hand to provide pensions to retirees who are living longer than in decades past. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has also suggested increasing the number of years a person must work to become eligible for a full pension. The government warns that France cannot run the risk of an ever-increasing national pension deficit as it tries to tackle other public debt challenges.

Macron hopes to get enough support in parliament to push through the pension changes, with the country’s senate voting to approve the measures. But unions and workers are outraged at the government plans, and point out that the minimum retirement age was raised only 13 years ago. Polls say most French people are against raising the retirement age, and some unions have vowed to hold a series of rolling strikes to pressure Macron to drop his proposals. Women, students, and undocumented workers are among protesters who say they will be particularly badly affected if the minimum retirement age is increased.

In this episode of The Stream, we will look at the growing divide over pensions and retirement in France and ask what the standoff means for workers, employers, and the government.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Gaelle Martinez, @UnionSolidaires
Spokesperson, Union Solidaires

Cole Stangler, @ColeStangler

Ariane Bogain, @BogainAriane
Professor of French Politics, Northumbria University