French pension reform: will the people play along?

After many delays and repeated announcements the French government is now determined to tackle pension reform. According to plans presented by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, the retirement age is to be raised gradually from 62 to 64 by 2032. The trade unions have announced large-scale protests.

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Le Figaro (FR) /

Pavlovian reflexes

Le Figaro is annoyed by the trade unions' reaction:

“The reactions are so institutionalised that there was no need to wait for the presentation of the draft project to predict what would happen next: first comes the big surge of indignation and then the threat to blockade the whole country. In a Pavlovian reflex, the battalions of the CGT, SUD, FO and CFDT are already getting into position to disrupt public transport, fuel supplies and schools. On the front line are the civil service, whose pension deficit is a bottomless pit, and the beneficiaries of special regimes, who will keep their privileges even after the reform.”

Le Point (FR) /

France must work more

The unions' insistence on reducing working hours has done a huge amount of damage, Le Point believes:

“The total number of hours worked over a lifetime is much lower in France than in other major industrialised nations. ... It is high time the French admitted that there are no miracles in the economy. The less the country works, the less is produced, the less wealth is created, the less growth is generated and the lower the purchasing power. It is high time to say goodbye to the Malthusian illusions that for decades have been causing even more economic harm than the Keynesian drug of deficits and debt.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

EU's course also being set here

The coming weeks will also make clear just how much appeal Macron still exerts in the EU, Dagens Nyheter writes:

“Both the left and the populist Marine Le Pen are always against reforms. The conservative Republican Party could consider helping to push the liberal Macron's project through parliament in exchange for certain favours. Granted, this is by no means sure to succeed. When Macron was elected he wanted to show that France could modernise, and thus take Germany on board to reshape the entire EU. The success with pension reform is therefore an important test of his room to manoeuvre.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

About time, too!

L'Opinion spurs the government on:

“Finally! After many failed attempts and delays, the pension reform is at last underway. Now France will start to catch up with the big European countries that have a comparable social model and pretty much all of which have already pushed the retirement age above 65. But nothing will be done in a hurry: the legal retirement age will not be raised until 2032, and not to 65 but to 64. This is a regrettable retreat from Macron's original election promise.”

Le Soir (BE) /

The moment of truth

This is a daring time for a pension reform, Le Soir comments:

“France is sitting on a volcano, but this is precisely the moment Emmanuel Macron has chosen to tackle a perilous pension reform. ... This project will be the moment of truth for his five-year term. ... It will take immense talent to win over an already reluctant public and convince them that the decisions will not come at the expense of the weakest. Because raising the retirement age will not affect everyone equally; managers won't be as hard hit as the less qualified and those who do hard physical work.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Macron needs to explain things better

The president may be right, but he is once again proving to be a poor communicator, writes Stefan Brändle, the Frankfurter Rundschau's business and economics corrrespondent in Paris:

“The French perceive this as stubbornness on the part of a leader who only has his personal success in mind and won't listen to the 68 percent of his citizens who are against the reform. Instead of giving them a plausible explanation as to how the financing of their own pensions is threatened, he declaims that citizens must 'work more'. This amounts to the same thing, but comes across wrong at a time when wages in the country are shrinking due to inflation.”

Libération (FR) /

A large majority against it

Protests will come from all fronts, editor-in-chief Dov Alfon predicts in Libération:

“Inevitably, there will be workers who will be the first to suffer as a result of the proposed changes, including those who are now 62 years old, and especially those who will have to continue working until they're 64 even though they've already earned their maximum pension rights. In addition, there are the millions of workers of this age who will be affected by serious health problems after many years of hard work. That adds up to a lot of French people who may well feel threatened by these proposals, not to mention the vast majority of workers who oppose the increase to 64 even though they are less affected by it.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Not just a hot-button issue in France

There is resistance to pension reforms in other countries too, observes Večernji list:

“Raising the retirement age is one of the most controversial political issues. Large protests have been organised over this in a wide range of countries - from Russia to Chile and Spain, from Greece to Croatia and even China. ... Opposition to a higher retirement age is one of the rare issues on which protesters from a whole range of countries agree, in many cases regardless of whether they consider themselves left-wing or right-wing. Five years ago, mass demonstrations briefly shook the popularity of Russian President Putin's regime. ... The Spanish demonstrated in 2010, the Greeks in 2015 and the Swiss last September.”