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Why women’s anger is fuelling French pension protests


Large crowds staged a sixth round of protests across France on Tuesday against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age, signaling their continued opposition to a controversial reform that three-quarters of the French women opposed the reform.

In the French capital, where organizers said more than 500,000 people marched (police said fewer than 100,000), trade unionists and leftist parties ditched their traditional eastern rallying points for a trendy 6-day rally. administrative district In the center of Paris (area), there are many fashionable boutiques along the Left Bank.

Bewildered tourists and shoppers navigate a sea of ​​Union and other flags outside the famous Lutetia Palace Hotel. A few steps away, dozens of women danced to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s “I’ll Survive,” each dressed as feminist champions in their signature blue smocks. Rosie the Riveter.

Unionists gather outside the Lutetia Palace hotel in Paris ahead of Tuesday’s rally. © Benjamin Dodman, France 24

They included publisher Camille, 54, who said she came out to protest in solidarity with low-paid workers – many of them women – who “lose the most” from pension reform. She slammed a reform “discussed in a hasty and brutal manner, without consultation, despite overwhelming opposition”.

“Women are structurally underpaid, so they have lower pensions. Yet they have some of the most tiring jobs, working overtime in addition to caring for the young and old,” she said, noting women’s Pensions are on average 40% lower than for men.

“The fact that they are now being asked to work longer hours is only going to make it worse,” she added.

Achilles’ heel of reform

Macron is betting his reformist credentials on the passage of his flagship pension reform, according to a recent survey by the Elabe Institute, which polls show some two-thirds of French people now oppose, including a staggering 74% of women.

The government argues that it needs to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and raise the requirement for full pensions to balance the pension system in the face of demographic change. But unions say the proposed measures are unfair and will disproportionately affect low-skilled workers who start their careers earlier, as well as women.

>> ‘I can’t take it’: French working class bemoans Macron’s push to raise retirement age

Discussion of the text’s gender imbalance has come under particular scrutiny, especially since one of Macron’s own ministers admitted last week that it would “penalize women a little bit” — the government’s attempt to promote several of its increasingly unpopular PRs. Mistakes in one plan.

“Macron and his government have lied about women being the main winners of this reform,” Camille told a rally in Paris. “This injustice to women is the reform’s Achilles’ heel: a united front of French women can overcome it.”

Many protesters believe the government is misleading women, fueling their displeasure with the proposal, which is currently being rushed through parliament.

“The government claimed that the reform would promote ‘justice’ and ‘equality,’ but it quickly became a publicity stunt,” said Sandrine Tellier, 47, who represents the energy and mining sector of the Force Ouvrière union. “In effect, it only exacerbates existing inequalities.”

justice at stake

France’s long-standing gender pay gap is reflected in the difference between the average pensions paid to men and women. Rules that penalize those who work part-time or interrupt their careers with childcare exacerbate the disparity.

These include Jacqueline, a laboratory worker at a Paris hospital who started working at 20 but whose career was cut short by parenting. She now faces the prospect of working another two years before retiring to receive her full pension.

“I had to work part-time to support my daughter, but I had no choice. It wasn’t like I went to the beach part-time or something,” said the 57-year-old, who claimed she had never attended a protest before. “But it’s too much,” she added. “Too much fatigue and too much injustice.”

>> ‘Not just pensions’: French protesters see Macron’s reforms as threat to social justice

the concept of pénibilité (Difficulty) was a recurring theme at the rallies, where protesters bemoaned the government’s refusal to acknowledge the hardships endured by low-paid manual laborers.Macron has said in the past that he “doesn’t like” the term pénibilité“because it shows that work is a pain”.

Veteran theater director Ariane Mnouchkine said the stance reflected politicians’ “insensitivity” and “ignorance of the realities of life”, adding that “MPs should try their hand at being hotel cleaners and see what a grueling job is all about.” what does it feel like”.

The Mnouchkine troupe from the Sol Theater carried a huge statue of Lady Justice, blindfolded, holding scales and a sword. The 84-year-old director said the principles of justice were at stake in France’s pension battle.

“The government sentences those who are living the hardest to a harder retirement when they should be living a more comfortable life,” she explained. “The only consolation is that everyone seems to realize how unfair this is.”

Members of Ariane Mnouchkine's Theater du Soleil hold up a statue of Lady Justice during protests in Paris.
Members of Ariane Mnouchkine’s Theater du Soleil hold up a statue of Lady Justice during protests in Paris. © Benjamin Dodman, France 24

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