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French Protest and Tradition: Mobilization against the New Minimum Retirement Age

Francesca Vassallo
University of Southern Maine
Francesca Vassallo
University of Southern Maine
Open Panel

Abstract

The impact of the current global financial crisis has not spared France, whose government has reacted to the economic emergency by forcing major reforms of the country’s social welfare system. One of the most resisted changes has been the increase of the minimum retirement age from 60 years to 62 years, a benefit many French citizens considered until now untouchable. During the fall of 2010 France saw expected street protests and wide mobilization against the new retirement age reform. The vitality, strength and conviction of the protests corresponded to the typical French tradition of unconventional political participation. Yet, the broad coalition of participants and the intensity of the activism over a rather long period of time struck many as a renewed revolutionary period. The political forces on the left embraced this political engagement as the re-establishment of old practices coupled with a renewed vigor against the imminent threat. The popular struggle against the government’s intervention on labor rights and workers’ expected retirement protection seems to have recreated a typical framework of collaboration in the political opposition to the French government in power. This paper investigates whether the street activism of the last few months allowed French participants to finally show a unified position vis-à-vis a perceived violation of workers’ rights to a retirement. The paper plans to research the evolution of the retirement age reform opposition among different movements and the reaction that developed after the recent attack by the French government on labor rights.