France pension protests: Supreme court backs unpopular plans to raise retirement age to 64

Paris (CNN) France’s top court on Friday approved the government’s unpopular plans to raise the retirement age to 64, a major victory for President Emmanuel Macron. Mass protests across the country.

The Constitutional Council — like the US Supreme Court — struck down some elements of the new law, but the most controversial element remains: the gradual raising of the retirement age.

Pension reform In France, the right to retire on a full pension at age 62 has always been deeply respected. A very sensitive issue Especially in recent months there has been growing social discontent over the rising cost of living.

Major protests have paralyzed France this year against Macron’s proposed changes to the pension system. Clashes broke out between the police and the protesters.

The final approval of the pension reforms — following seven hours of debate in the nine-member council — was a victory for Macron one year into his second term as president, but the new law’s unpopularity has come at a heavy political cost. His approval ratings have been recorded at record lows.

Students and young protesters gather in front of the Gare Saint Lazare train station in Paris on April 14, 2023.

As part of the ruling, the Constitutional Council also rejected the opposition legislators’ first request for a referendum on the reform. A second, last-minute request for a referendum on the reform, made on Thursday, is under consideration.

Macron’s government has said the reform is necessary to keep the pension system’s finances intact in the coming years.

Ahead of the verdict, high security was put in place in Paris amid expectations of spontaneous protests.

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Macron is expected to pass the law later this week. From September pensioners will have to wait an extra three months for their state pension. With regular, incremental increases, the retirement age will reach 64 in 2030.

The French government now hopes that the protests, which have already shown signs of abating, will end.

But speaking to CNN in Paris, some protesters said they would be on the streets.

“We expected it. It’s not really a surprise, we’re not really worried because we want to fight until this reform is dropped,” Sidonie Davar said.

“We need to be respected because we are going to continue protesting. People want to be respected for social rights and social justice. We are against this pension reform,” said Jean-Baptiste Reddé, another protester.

The head of the French union CGT, one of France’s main unions, has called for a “historic” protest on May 1.

“All French people, mark the date, we must be in the streets to prevent this law from taking effect,” Sophie Binet, head of the CGT, told CNN affiliate BFMTV, vowing that the protests would continue.

“The lives of French men and women do not depend on the opinion of nine,” he said.

People demonstrated on Thursday in the streets of the French capital, between Place de l’Opera and Place de la Bastille.

Opposition parties have also hinted that they will fight against these plans.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said the resolution made the House “more focused on the needs of the presidential monarchy than the sovereign people”, while the far-right’s Marine Le Pen urged those opposed to the changes to vote. her in the next election.

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Even with the changes, France’s new retirement age is still below the norm in Europe and many developed economies, where the age at which full pension benefits apply is 65 and is increasingly moving towards 67.

State pensions in France are more generous than elsewhere. At nearly 14% of GDP in 2018, the country’s spending on state pensions is higher than other countries, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The government fueled further anger earlier this year by using executive powers to force changes through parliament.

Joseph Ataman and Saskia Vandoorne reported from Paris, Sophie Dano wrote in London

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