'It's now or never': Over 1.2 million march across France, protesting Macron's pension reform

Demonstrators walk through flare smoke during a demonstration against plans to push back France's retirement age,Jan. 31, 2023 in Paris.
Demonstrators walk through flare smoke during a demonstration against plans to push back France's retirement age,Jan. 31, 2023 in Paris. Copyright Lewis Joly/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Cyril Fourneris
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Protesters marched against the French government’s plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

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At just 35 years old, Mylène is a long way from retiring in France. And yet, on Tuesday, she joined a protest for the first time in her life against the government's plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Many young French people are doing the same, as they enter the labour force later than previous generations, meaning the change could force them to work longer than their predecessors.

And they are not alone. Opinion polls show a substantial majority of the French oppose the increase, despite French president Emmanuel Macron saying it is "vital" for the viability of the country’s pension system.

Around 1.272 million people took part in demonstrations nationwide, according to the French Interior ministry said. In Paris, around 87,000 protesters marched through the streets on Tuesday.

According to Mylène, the change would disproportionally affect some people more than others.

"As a woman, we are basically obliged to take maternity leave if we have children," she told Euronews. "We are obliged to stop our career [when we have children].

“When we start again, we don't work full-time. We work 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."

Mylène participated in a protest at the Place d'Italie in Paris with her friend Benjamin, who says he doesn't have high hopes for his pension.

"I am protesting to tell the government that I'm fed up with all these reforms they are trying to make. For me, they are trying to break up the whole public service."

AP Photo/Jean Francois Badias
Demonstrators take part to a protest march against plans to push back France's retirement age, in StrasbourgAP Photo/Jean Francois Badias

President Emmanuel Macron and his government claim that this reform is "essential to save the French pay-as-you-go system". And his government has said it is "non-negotiable."

According to France’s labour ministry, the change would yield an additional €17.7 billion in annual pension contributions.

But Paris’ argument has not convinced the demonstrators. "The aim is for all this mobilisation to simply put an end to this reform," Mylène said.

"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."

Union leaders are planning to organise more demonstrations against the reform later this month.

Watch the video in the player above.

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