WASHINGTON – Protests erupted across France Thursday evening after French President Emmanuel Macron pushed forward an unpopular bill to raise the country’s retirement age without the approval of lawmakers.
The plan passed France’s Senate Thursday morning and was set to be voted on by the National Assembly – the lower house of parliament – where its approval wasn’t guaranteed. Uncertainty over the bill’s future prompted Macron and Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to invoke Article 49.3 of the Constitution, bypassing the vote by the lower chamber.
The move infuriated opposition lawmakers, provoking some to call for the resignation of the leaders. The opposition is also now considering appealing to the country’s constitutional council – France’s highest constitutional body – to try to block part or all of the law.
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Why is Macron pushing this reform?
All retirees in France receive a state pension, which is funded by a specific tax on those currently working. However, between the country’s lower birth rate and longer life expectancies, the current pension system is projected to face a shortfall in the next decade.
The grim future of the pension system has prompted Macron to make the proposed change a key priority of his second term, arguing that reform is necessary.
What would the bill change?
Macron is pushing to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The bill would also require 43 years of work to be eligible to receive a full pension at 64, otherwise individuals would have to wait until they are 67.
The new conditions would apply to those born in or after 1968. However, workers born in 1961, who were supposed to retire this year, would have to work three extra months.
What is the opposition saying?
Those opposed to Macron’s plan argue that there are alternative ways to fund the pension system instead of raising the retirement age, including a tax on the wealthy or an increase in payroll contributions paid by employers.
France’s eight main workers’ unions have also joined forces to call on the government to completely abandon the age increase, which is the first time since 2010 that all eight unions have come together against a reform plan.
Contributing: The Associated Press