Monday, October 18, 2010

Pension Reform Mobilizes French of All Ages

The crisis in France is coming to a boil as mass protests against retirement benefit reform throttle the country. The malaise is now spreading to all generations, as shown through the nascent student movement rising up in solidarity with those fighting to preserve their once and future pensions. (See video from Euronews here.)

The genesis of the demonstrating is President Nicolas Sarkozy's move to up the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, a result of aching public coffers that are weathering recovery from the global economic crisis only with extreme duress. The pension cuts have met ferocious resistance and has generated nearly a full week of open-ended general strikes. 

Multiple reports of car fires and clashes with police have ricocheted throughout Europe as troublemakers mix with demonstrators, some still in high school, to join the anti-reform groundswell. 

Young people expressed both anger over the reform, seen in much of the country as draconian, and fears over recession-time prospects in the transition from their status of student to job seeker.

In a separate but no less serious development, French oil refinery workers have jumped on the bandwagon for the resistance by refusing to work while motorists of all stripes panic over how their fuel is to last. The oil industry lobby estimates that shortages will be felt by mid-week if no major change takes place.    

... Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune counters, "this reform is a no-brainer. Come on, France, get real!"

UPDATE: "France, the Unions and Fiscal Reality," 10/19/10. 

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