Venue: Faculty of Education Boardroom, Old Humanities Bldg., Rm 326
The French Subject Area within the Department of Languages and Humanities of the Faculty of Education is pleased to announce a seminar entitled A Winter of Discontent: France 2019 by Dr Frédéric Royall, expert in French socio-politics, Senior Lecturer at the School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics, University of Limerick, Ireland.
The lecture will be held in English and is open to the general public
In late 2019 and early 2020, and for the second year in a row, a major social movement has taken place in France. Following the (still ongoing) civil-society-led Yellow Vest movement of 2018-2019 against perceived inequalities in France, major union-led protests emerged in late 2019 against President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to reform substantially the French pension system.
Social and economic reforms were core elements of President Macron’s electoral platform in 2017. Since then he has sought to hold to his electoral promises: reforms of unemployment benefits, of the status of railroad workers, of the labour code, of social security, of pensions, etc. Though there has been robust opposition to these various reforms, many have thus far been implemented. The situation has proved to be far more complicated with the pension reforms proposals. All of the major trade unions have come out strongly against the proposals and since 5 December 2019, they have initiated major street protests and organised strikes notably in public transportation.
The protests throughout France on 5 December 2019 gathered between 800,000 and 1.5 million people. The latest protests of 9 January 2020 brought out between 120,000 and 600,000 protesters. In this context, four of the main public opinion research centres (Harris, IFOP, ELABE, ODOXA) have shown that public support for the strikes has been overwhelmingly positive over time despite the inconveniences caused. In addition, public authorities have struggled to contain the protests despite revisiting some of their main reforms and making a few concessions to airline pilots, police officers, or Paris opera workers.
This paper reviews the political significance of the recent social movement in France. It is divided into three main parts. The first part reviews the social and political background to the movement. The next section provides an overview of the French pension system and describes the Macron proposals. The final part of the paper reviews the events since early December 2019. In addition, this part offers an analysis of the broader social, economic and political contexts that were crucial contributory factors to the movement and of the power relations at play.