friday, 6 december of 2019

Pension system

France’s worst strike in decades enters a second day

France faces a second day of nationwide protest, severe transport disruption and school closures as public sector workers vent their anger at plans to reform the country's pension system.

France's national rail company, SNCF, is expecting a "very disturbed" day across its network and the Parisian metro is operating approximately two of its 16 lines. There were traffic jams of more than 350 kilometers on the outskirts of Paris before 8 a.m. Paris time Friday, according to the French newspaper Le Monde. Air traffic is also being impacted with 20% fewer flights.

The French government said that more than 800,000 people protested across the country on Thursday. French police arrested at least 90 people in Paris on Thursday evening, according to the Associated Press.

Some trade unions have called on workers to continue protesting throughout the weekend, while government officials say they will open discussions with the unions on Monday.

The open-ended strike is an attempt by public sector workers to show their dissatisfaction with the government’s plan to update the pension system. France has one of the most expensive pension systems in the world, according to data from the OECD. President Emmanuel Macron vowed ahead of his election in 2017 to make the current setup fairer and simpler.

The open-ended strike is an attempt by public sector workers to show their dissatisfaction with the government's plan to update the pension system. France has one of the most expensive pension systems in the world, according to data from the OECD. President Emmanuel Macron vowed ahead of his election in 2017 to make the current setup fairer and simpler.

The full details of Macron’s reforms have not yet been officially put to Parliament. However, Tomasz Michalski, professor of economics at HEC Paris business school, told CNBC Thursday that the changes would benefit those in high-paying jobs and those who enter and leave the workforce often.

Public sector workers argue the new system would mean they would have to work longer or face living with a smaller pension pot.

A compromise?
Changing the pension system has been a controversial subject for more than two decades. In 1995, President Jacques Chirac ended up caving into union demands after his pension reform plans faced weeks of demonstrations. Since then, no president has tried to alter the pension arrangements. The current general strike is reportedly the biggest movement of its kind since 1995.

According to the French press, the Macron government could adjust plans to look at longer transition periods or apply the new laws to those that aren’t currently close to the retirement age.

Macron also faced widespread protests about a year ago after putting forward plans for additional diesel taxes. The so-called “Yellow Vest” movement took to the streets for several months until the government said it would be revising its plans.


(Published by CNBC, December 6, 2019)
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