June 8. 2023. 11:20

The Daily

Read the World Today

French youth mobilise against pensions reform, but want much more

Young people across France are increasingly mobilising against President Emmanuel Macron’s pensions reform, which they see as the ‘last straw’ amid issues of police brutality, a saturated labour market, green issues and ‘anti-youth’ reforms.

Since Macron’s government pushed its hotly-contested pension reform through parliament without a vote, protests have seen a lower turnout. But for young people – particularly high school and university students – attendance numbers have increased.

On Tuesday’s (28 March) strikes, their numbers “doubled or even tripled” compared to the 30,000 who marched five days earlier, on 23 March, French state services estimate.

This is not to say that young people have not been mobilised since the start of the movement – as several high school and university union formations are part of the inter-union group that organises protests on strike days, Ephram Strzalka-Beloeil vice-president of the student union La Voix lycéenne told EURACTIV.

The sharp increase may also be explained by the fact that the previous week was a date of many high school exams, which prevented some students from mobilising, the student representative explained.

Young people oppose the reform itself out of “solidarity with our grandparents and parents” and because of its consequences for young people’s employment because “if the retirement age is raised, the labour market will be saturated”, he added.

Neighbours divided over Macron’s pension reform push

The political crisis French President Emmanuel Macron and his government face after pushing through a highly unpopular pension reform has provoked reactions from politicians in neighbouring Italy and Germany, with some suggesting that France should review elements of its constitution, …

Protection of democracy

But for young people, the issues are broader.

Intelligence services added that the government’s use of article 49.3 of the Constitution to bypass parliament and push through the reform would “outrage” young people, mobilising the to join the movement.

Indeed, in Paris, young people who joined the protest held signs on these topics and shouted slogans criticising police action they view as too brutal.

A Twitch streamer who broadcast a two-hour-long stream of the protest on the platform told EURACTIV during the demonstration that her motivation goes far beyond pension reform. This was “a passage by force” that is “undemocratic”, she said.

Student representative Strzalka-Beloeil said that resorting to this procedure is “a declaration of war, a denial of democracy”. The tool “has no place in a society that wants to evolve,” he added, noting that it is part of the constitution that “has not changed for more than 50 years”.

French government survives confidence vote, but political crisis continues

The two no-confidence votes tabled to topple French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government were rejected on Monday (20 March), keeping her in power for the time being. Despite this, the political crisis is far from over, MPs and observers note.

On …

Speaking on the livestream, the Twitch streamer said that whilst many turning out for the protests did indeed vote for Macron, he should be reminded that this was much to do with the alternative in the second round being far-right Marine Le Pen, and “70% of the population rejects this reform”.

Both the two-round election system in France and the government’s constitutional tools, such as Article 49.3, make it clear, according to the streamer and those who attended the protests, that French institutions “no longer suit” the youth of France.

“The pension reform is just the last straw,” Strzalka-Beloeil said, criticising the government for having carried out “anti-youth reforms” that reformed high school and vocational training and introduced the platform for post-high school careers.

“We want a better world, a greener world where the social rights of the French are respected,” the student representative added.

“When young people mobilise, the government backs down,” he continued, citing the postponement of the mandatory universal national service for everyone aged 16 to 25 – that was set to be announced soon.

“Young people have the power to make proposals, but not only in protest and constant blocking,” he said.

Youth must be roused against far-right, apathy says French youth minister

As fundamental rights are under threat across the bloc, it is more important than ever to galvanise youth in France and the whole bloc, French Secretary of State for Youth Sarah El Haïry told EURACTIV France in an interview.

[an error occurred while processing the directive]