Protestors continue to clash with police in Paris

Briefly: French protestors continued to rally over the weekend after President Macron’s government pushed controversial pension reforms through without a vote.

France is ‘ageing’. This doesn’t mean everyone’s watching more Matlock, it means folks are living longer and having fewer kids. So there are now fewer workers paying into the pension fund, and more retirees drawing it down. And that’s unsustainable.

But who should fix this? Macron’s critics say France should instead tax the wealthy or get firms to make more pension contributions. But taxing the rich is like nailing jello foie gras to the wall – and when you make it more expensive for companies to hire people, companies tend to hire fewer people.

It’s the seventh time France has attempted pension reform since the 1980s, when President Mitterrand cut the retirement age to 60. President Sarkozy then jacked it back up to 62 in 2010. And Macron has long campaigned on raising it further to 64. Now he’s actually doing it.

France isn’t the only country dealing with an ageing population. Japan is trying to re-balance its demographics by encouraging more women to work. Korea has spent $200B trying to get couples to have more babies. In Australia and the US, young immigrants have helped slow the ageing process.

Intrigue’s take: What’s really notable in France is how much this issue has fired up both the far right (some would include Marine Le Pen in that) and the far left (there’s a French Communist Party, and it’s not happy).

Macron’s government will likely survive the no-confidence vote scheduled for today (Monday). And if he gets his way, his legacy will be a more sustainable pension system. But if Macron doesn’t get his way, his legacy could well be a more radicalised and polarised France.

Also worth noting:

  • Striking garbage workers have left more than 10,000 tonnes of trash rotting in the streets of Paris, but they’re still letting some garbage trucks through to incinerators “to limit the risk of an epidemic”.
  • Two thirds of French people oppose Macron’s reforms, and his popularity has plummeted to just 28%, the lowest in four years.
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