TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora..
- Since December 5, hundreds of thousands of protesters including railway workers, teachers, and hospital staff, have been staging one of the biggest strikes in France in decades against the government’s pension reform project.
- The strike is expected to continue for at least the next few days, and
- It will affect intercity commutes as well.
- The protesters argue that President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension reforms will force them to make a choice between working for long hours and receiving lower payments.
- The protests are the second during Macron’s presidency, after last year’s “Yellow Vest” or “gilets jaunes” protests.
Yellow Vest Protests
- Yellow vest protests were triggered by general discontent, especially high fuel prices and cost of living.
- The movement was a populist, grassroots political movement for economic justice that began in France in October 2018.
- The movement was initially motivated by rising fuel prices and a high cost of living;
- It claims that a disproportionate burden of the government’s tax reforms were falling on the working and middle classes, especially in rural and peri-urban areas.
- The protesters called for lower fuel taxes, a reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, a minimum-wage increase, the implementation of Citizens’ initiative referendums, among other things.
- Rising fuel prices initially sparked the demonstrations.
- Yellow high-visibility vests, which French law required all drivers to have in their vehicles and to wear during emergencies, were chosen as “a unifying thread and call to arms” because of their convenience, visibility, ubiquity, and association with working-class industries.
- Through the pension reforms, Macron aims to merge the pension system — one of his core election promises — which currently has 42 sector-specific pension schemes, with different levels of contributions and rewards, into one central points-based system.
- The French government spending on pensions is among the highest in the world, at 14 percent of their economic output.
- As per the reformed pension schemes, each day that a worker works will earn them a point for future pension benefits.
- Macron maintains that a points-based single pension scheme will be fairer and less complicated.
- At the moment, pension benefits in France are based on a worker’s 25 highest earning years in the private sector, and the last six months in the public sector.
- Additionally, the retirement age in France is 62, one of the lowest among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
- While Macron has not indicated that the retirement age will be pushed back, he has, indeed, said that workers in France will be required to work for longer.
- This is not the first time that French people are protesting against a change in the pension scheme.
- In 2007, rail and public transport workers staged a similar strike against then President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans for pension reforms.
Connecting the dots:
- France Protests are effective on all sides of the political spectrum. Critically comment.