For many young people the world over, retirement is an abstract idea. Faced with issues like global warming and unemployment, Gen Z have enough on their plates to start thinking about pensions.
Since French president Emmanuel Macron announced his plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 in January, anti-reform demonstrations have swept across France. And young people have increasingly been on the frontline.
Our reporter Anelise Borges went to Paris to find out why.
Whilst some young people are concerned about Macron’s reform, many say they are taking to the streets to express a more general sense of discontent.
Romane, a 21-year-old student, told Anelise: ‘We are against all of the government’s policies. […] What’s at stake is much wider [than the reform].’
Parallels with May 68
Political analyst Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet reiterated this idea: ‘There is a parallel to be drawn with May 68 [protests] because in 1968 we had an old president, De Gaulle, who mattered to an older generation, but not to the young generation. And it’s the same with Emmanuel Macron – he is the president of the old.’
59.2% of 18-24-year-olds voted for Macron in the second round of the 2022 presidential election, but 41% of this age group didn’t vote at all. We also mustn’t forget those who weren’t old enough to vote last year.
Many young protesters also believe they are defending their right to influence government decision-making. In order to pass his reform, President Macron bypassed parliament by resorting to article 49.3 of the French constitution, a move that opponents view as a threat to democracy. Whilst the government says their approach was legitimate and necessary, some feel that Macron is becoming increasingly autocratic.
Stakes are rising
It’s also true that young people, mostly without full-time jobs and families, often have less to lose when demonstrating. That said, as the anti-reform rallies become more violent, the stakes are rising. In Paris, Anelise spoke to several young protesters who had been placed in police custody.
18-year-old Solal told her: ‘They [the police] caught me and hit me. […] Their aim is obviously to discourage us. […] But this shouldn’t happen.’