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Amid Protests, France Pushes Through Bill to Raise Retirement Age Without Parliamentary Vote

French President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet has invoked an article of the French constitution to push through pension reform without a parliamentary vote, according to the AP. Protesters have demonstrated against a plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 since mid-January, and the move is certain to incite an uproar.

“We cannot bet on the future of our pensions and this reform is necessary,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said.

The decision was declared minutes before the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, was scheduled to vote. The Senate, which has a conservative majority, had adopted the bill in a 194 to 114 vote on Thursday, but reports had found that it was short of a majority in the Assembly, Le Monde reported. The decision is expected to lead to a no-confidence motion for Macron’s government, France 24 reported.

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Read More: What to Know About the Retirement Age Protests in France

The provision, 49.3, has been used dozens of times since its creation in 1958, although a constitutional reform implemented in 2008 limited its use to a single law per parliamentary session, in addition to finance and social security bills.

Marie Magnin—Hans Lucas/ReduxAccumulation of rubbish in the streets of the capital, on the ninth day of the garbage collectors strike against the pension reform, on March 14.
President Emmanuel Macron has said the current age of retirement is unsustainable. In France, where the average life expectancy is now 82, people spend about 25 years in retirement, according to OECD data from 2021. Official projections have found that the ratio of workers to retirees is expected to drop to 1.2 in 2070, down from 2.1 in 2000 and 1.7 in 2020.

“People know that yes, on average, you have to work a little longer, all of them, because otherwise we won’t be able to finance our pensions properly,” Macron said in February, per the Associated Press.

However, the increase has been deeply unpopular.The opposition to the bill led to strikes that have shuttered schools, halted public transportation, and left piles of trash around the Eiffel tower. Last week, protests swelled with over a million participants—a record, according to the New York Times.

Polling has also indicated the vast majority of French people oppose raising the retirement age. An Elabe poll released on March 31 found that 70% opposed an increase. Experts say that it is in part because cherishing life after retirement is deeply embedded in French culture, and that it is seen as a necessary (and earned) reprieve after a life of hard work.

Backlash to the decision was swift, as lawmakers loudly booed Borne during the announcement. “When a president has no majority in the country, no majority in the National Assembly, he must withdraw his bill,” said Olivier Faure, the head of the Socialist party, according to France 24.

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