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The Trigger of the French Protests

Nearly a month ago, France faced one of the biggest protests in its history with over a million people marching through the street and disrupting many parts of the country. 


BBC News wrote on this stating, “The head of the big CGT union, Philippe Martinez, put the total number of protesters at beyond two million, higher than the government's 1.12 million figure. They said 400,000 people had joined the biggest march, from Place de la République in Paris.


These protests have continued to the present day according to Aljazeera, with some protests reaching over 950,000 participants. The locations include some of the major cities in the country like Paris, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse, and Nantes.


Those who are pushing for these protests are being done by eight of the largest unions in France as France24 reported.


The march was led by the leaders of France's eight main unions, keeping up a tight unity that the government has so far been unable to break. The unions said in a joint statement that they would call for a national strike that would "bring France to a standstill" on March 7 if the government "remained deaf to the popular mobilization". Another day of protest and strike is planned on February 16.


While these protests continue to rage on, the reason behind all of this falls on one single plan and person.


This plan according to AP News is a pension bill that will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years old. The bill has been met with skepticism and criticism both by some government politicians and officials with French citizens showing a growing opposition toward it. Despite all this, the plan is still being pushed forward by France’s President, Emmanuel Macron. 


Despite opinion polls consistently showing growing opposition to the reform and his popularity shrinking, Macron insisted that he’s living up to a key campaign pledge he made when he swept to power in 2017 and again ahead of his reelection in April.


The reason behind this plan according to Voice of America is that the current system the government has on the state pension for retirees is looking to face a deficit due to the country’s aging population. The plan for raising the retirement age is to help allow more funding toward pensions.


The government says the changes will make the system financially sustainable.


However, many have opposed this with some arguing that other ways could help fund the system including taxing the rich and increasing payroll contributions. 


Most opposition parties, including the hard-left France Unbowed, the Greens and the Socialist party, as well as the far-right National Rally, vowed to wage a harsh battle against the bill at parliament.


As of now, the plan is still being discussed and debated within France’s Parliament. Whether this plan will pass through or not is uncertain. For now, protesters show no sign of stopping in voicing their opinions on the matter.

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