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Young French people oppose raising the retirement age


PARIS — Young people in France – including some who have not even entered the labor market yet – demonstrate on Thursday against the government’s desire to raise the retirement age.

Students plan to block access to some universities and high schools, and a youth-led protest is planned in Paris on Thursday, part of nationwide strikes and protests against the pensions bill being debated in parliament .

For a generation already worried about inflation, uncertain job prospects and climate change, the retirement bill raises broader questions about the value of work.

“I don’t want to work all my life and be exhausted at the end,” said Djana Farhaig, a 15-year-old who blocked her Paris high school with other students during a protest action last month. “It is important for us to show that young people are committed to their future.”

Teenagers and 20-somethings have taken part in protests against pension reform since the movement launched in January, but student groups and unions are seeking to draw attention to young people’s concerns on Thursday.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and make other changes he says are necessary to maintain the financial stability of the public pension system as the population ages. Opponents argue that wealthy taxpayers or corporations should instead contribute more to fund the system.

Quentin Queller, a 23-year-old student who attended a previous round of protests, said: “64 is so far away, it’s depressing.”

He challenged the idea that hard work equals happiness, arguing that “we should work less and have more free time”. He and others echoed concerns from older protesters that instead of working to live, France is moving towards a system where people should live to work.

At one protest, a teenager held a sign saying, “I don’t want my parents to die on the job.

Thomas Coutrot, an economist specializing in health and working conditions, described a widespread feeling that “work has become unbearable”.

“Young people perceive that working conditions are deteriorating and that workers no longer understand why they work,” he said.

Among the young protesters are many supporters of the far-left France Insoumise party and other left-wing groups, but also others. They see it as a fundamental right to be able to live on a state pension and see the bill as a rollback on hard-won social achievements.

Elisa Lepetit, 18, already works part-time in a bar in parallel with her studies to become a teacher, and does not have the means to go on strike. But she supports the protests.

“I want to be a teacher, but I don’t see myself working until I’m 64,” she says. “The goal after a lifetime of hard work is to be able to spend time with my family.”

Some take a more apocalyptic view, saying their time on Earth is already threatened by climate change. “Working until 67 when it will be over 55 degrees (Celsius) makes no sense,” joked Anissa Saudemont, 29, whose job in the media sector is linked to ecology.

While young people are often present in French protest movements, Paolo Stuppia, a sociologist at the Sorbonne and California Polytechnic State University in Humboldt, said a particularly large number were taking part in the campaign against the project. pension law.

They include people who are also protesting for climate action, LGBTQ rights or against racial and gender discrimination, Stuppia said, and linking to a pensions bill they also see as unfair.

“For young people, their future seems completely closed and this reform is part of a model that they want to question,” Stuppia said.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.