Yesterday protests turned violent for the first time since June with reports of teenagers wielding crow-bars and protestors torching vehicles as desperation begins to show as a last-ditch challenge to the centre-right government before a final Senate vote this week on the pension bill.
Ahead of planned marches in Paris this morning, there were clashes for a second day between students and police in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Police fired tear gas to break up so-called “angry youths.” There were also clashes outside Paris, in Lyon and Mulhouse
Contemporaries elsewhere in Europe, and also many within the country itself, may be sympathetic to their cause but the sheer strength of the sense of entitlement to the current French welfare system is somewhat baffling in comparison elsewhere on the continent.
Opinion polls show a majority of French resent the plan to raise the minimum and full retirement ages by two years to 62 and 67 respectively, and feel they are being punished unfairly for a failure in France's cherished social security system.
Germany voted in 2007 to lift its retirement age to 63 from 62 by 2029, and whilst some complaints were inevitable there was not anywhere near the same strength of resistance to the changes.
However, even in France itself the BBC were able to find a large number of workers who do not agree with the protestors: "We shouldn't think it's still acceptable to stop working at 60 years old - we should work until 65. Like other European countries we have to work longer than 60 years," insurance worker Frederic Deraed told the BBC in Lille.
The police and the unions cannot even agree to the number of protestors involved. On Saturday 16th October the police reported 825,000 protestors whereas the unions reported more than double at 3 million.
Maybe what we currently have in France is the case of a vocal minority attempting to push the country’s agenda in their favor? With the strength of the unions, at this point it is impossible to tell.
Or maybe they just fancy a good fight…