Feminists denounce ‘sexist reform’ proposed by Macron for pensions


“Sexist reform, feminist strike”, said the poster displayed by public servant Kenza Ezzemzemi, 24, this Tuesday (7), in Toulouse, in the south of France, during the third day of demonstrations and general strike against the pension reform of Emmanuel Macron’s government.

The proposal, presented to the French in early January by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and which is now going through the French Parliament’s committees under strong resistance from the center and left parties, aims to raise the minimum age for retirement from 62 to 64 years. , until 2030. The reformulation also wants to extend the years of contribution, from 42 to 43 years, already in 2027 so that you have access to a full pension.

The third day of mobilization since the announcement of Borne brought together almost 2 million people, according to the inter-union board, which brings together the eight largest union centrals in the country for the first time in 12 years. According to the Ministry of the Interior, there were 757,000 protesters across the country.

The figures are lower than those of the protests on January 31, when the government and unions accounted for 1.3 million and 2.8 million protesters, respectively. But they are still a little higher than that of the first call against the Social Security reform, which took place on January 19, with 1.1 million people, according to ministry data. A new mobilization was scheduled for next Saturday (11) across the country.

In protests this Tuesday, feminist groups opened the marches with posters like Kenza’s, war cries and parodies of pop music hits that talk about low wages, domestic work, patriarchy and equality, and announce: “C’est la feminist strike!” (it’s a feminist strike).

“Women will have to work two years longer, given that they already perform much more unpaid work throughout their lives than men”, argues Kenza, who claims to be part of an alliance of social movements called Permanent Revolution, present in all of France. “If we look at it from that perspective, the reform becomes even more unfair.”

She refers to housework, childcare and elderly care activities, which are disproportionately performed by women in France, as well as in Brazil. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee), while 7% of inactive men claim to be without formal work for family reasons or because they perform housework, among inactive women this percentage is 54%.

This data is reflected in the 2021 employment rate, which also points to gender disparity. French women peak between the ages of 35 and 40, when 88% of men are employed versus 76% of women.

For teacher Delphine Lannes, 46, the fact that women take maternity leave or temporarily interrupt work to take care of their children makes it impossible to pay the quotas necessary for full retirement. “We want something that is fairer and that shares the wealth that, in one way or another, we help to produce.”

Social worker Alina Rubio, 65, illustrates the teacher’s observation. Despite the fact that she is old enough to retire under the rule still in effect, she still has not been able to meet the contribution quotas necessary to receive the full benefit. “I had two kids, I took time off, I worked part-time for a long time. Now I come here for my kids and grandkids,” she says.

The reform of the Macron-Borne duo seems to mirror or even deepen the gender inequalities already present in French society. Today, women receive an average pension of €1,274 per month, 24% less than men (€1,674). This is because women earn, on average, wages 16% lower than men, according to data from Insee.

They are the majority in less valued activities in the education, health and cleaning sectors and are also disproportionately present in part-time jobs – 28% of women against 8.3% of men have this type of work arrangement.

An impact study on the Social Security reform proposal pointed out that women will be penalized more by the project. While the French will have to work five months longer to retire under the proposed new rules, French women will need seven months.

When questioned on the subject, the Minister for Relations with Parliament, Franck Riester, somewhat embarrassed, admitted before the Federal Senate, last week, that “they are, in a certain way, penalized by the postponement of the legal age, that does not can be denied”.

The prime minister rushed to rectify the situation. “I can’t let it be said that our project wouldn’t protect women. On the contrary,” she said. In an attempt to put out the fire, Borne proposed that people with a long career, that is, who started working before the age of 21, could anticipate retirement to 63, not 64. This is a measure that was not part of the first proposed text.

“The difference between organized women workers and Borne is that she is a bourgeois woman, who doesn’t have to submit to violent and poorly paid work,” says activist Rozenn Kovol, 21, from the feminist collective De Pão e de Rosas.

“This is an anti-feminist and patriarchal reform”, he says, before picking up his megaphone and leading the chorus of a version of “Freed from Desire”, a song by Gala Rizzatto, renamed “Without us, the world stops” by a group feminist from Rennes, in the north of France. The lyrics, which became one of the anthems of the protest, say: “Our work, salaried or domestic, makes capitalism endure. Before the corvee, it’s time to block everything. Revolt! And it will explode.”

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