Thousands protest in France against inflation, Macron’s pension plan
Thousands of people took to the streets in France on Thursday to demand higher wages to cope with inflation and to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the country’s retirement age.
Striking teachers, students and railway workers joined the protests in dozens of cities across the country, snarling traffic and forcing many schools to shut down.
The Eiffel Tower remained closed. The street demonstrations are a sign of the potential turmoil European leaders face as the war in Ukraine continues with no end in sight.
Moscow has choked supplies of Russian gas to the continent, hammering businesses and stoking fuel prices.
Macron’s government has spent more than 40 billion euros, equivalent to $38.9 billion, on measures to limit increases in the price of fuel, gas and electricity. They include a cap on electricity and natural-gas prices, as well as a rebate on fuel.
The measures have helped inflation in France to remain lower than in the U.S. and most other European countries. Still, rising food prices are taking a heavy toll on France’s low-income families. Inflation stood at 6.6% in August, according to French statistics agency Insee.
Despite the inflationary pressure, Mr. Macron is moving ahead with a plan to overhaul the country’s pension system, raising the retirement age and angering the country’s powerful unions.
After losing his majority in Parliament in June, Mr. Macron pledged to turn the page on his first term, in which he wielded authority without building political consensus, and lead the country with a new method. Opposition and union leaders now say the president isn’t keeping his word.
“He pretends to listen. In reality he does what he wants,” Philippe Martinez, leader of the CGT, one of France’s largest unions, said in a recent interview.
Laurent Berger, the general secretary of the CFDT, France’s largest union, said raising the age of retirement with limited debate risked sparking a crisis.
“Don’t play with matches next to gas,” Mr. Berger said in a recent interview.
A recent Elabe poll of 1,002 people showed that 79% of French people are against raising the current age of retirement. More than half said the government should take the time to discuss and debate any pension overhaul, according to the poll.
Wall Street Journal