'It's now or never': Protests sweep France over plans to raise retirement age

Demonstrators walk through flare smoke during a demonstration against plans to push back France's retirement age,Jan. 31, 2023 in Paris.

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Demonstrators walk through flare smoke during a demonstration against plans to push back France’s retirement age,Jan. 31, 2023 in Paris.

At 35, Mylène is a long way from retirement. And yet on Tuesday, she protested for the first time in her life against the French government’s plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

This is the case for many young French people, who are entering the labour market later than their elders. Mylène feels even more disadvantaged as a woman.

“As a woman, we are basically obliged to take maternity leave if we have children,” she told Euronews’ reporter Cyril Fourneris. “We are obliged to stop our career. When we start again, we don’t work full-time but part-time. This will have an impact on our retirement later on. If this reform passes, we won’t be able to go back. It’s now or never.”

As the Place d’Italie in Paris fills up with protesters, Mylène joins her friend Benjamin, who says he doesn’t have high hopes for his pension. But he wants to be heard:

“I am protesting to tell the government that I’m fed up with all these reforms they’re trying to make. For me, they’re trying to break up the whole public service.”

President Emmanuel Macron and his government claim that this reform is “essential” to “save the French pay-as-you-go system”. An argument that does not convince the demonstrators.

“The aim is for all this mobilisation to simply put an end to this reform,” Mylène says. “We’re going to have to hold a lot of demonstrations, I think, because they really don’t seem to be listening to us. So it’s going to take time. But I still believe in it.”

The mobilisation of young people will be one of the keys to this protest movement. For the moment it is difficult to quantify. However, the polls are clear: the vast majority of working people remain opposed to this reform.