A poll released on Monday revealed that a majority of French citizens support the rolling strikes announced in opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, highlighting the unpopularity of the changes the government sees as necessary.
Massive strikes are anticipated to begin on Tuesday, with unions threatening to “put the nation to a standstill” and strikes planned for a variety of industries, including transportation, energy, and oil refining.
A poll conducted by the Elabe survey company for the BFM news channel on Monday revealed that a total of 56% of respondents supported rolling strikes and 59% supported the call to put the nation to a standstill.
The protest movement, which aims to persuade the government to drop its plans to raise the retirement age from its current level of 62 to 64, is supported by 64% of the populace as a whole.
After stating last week that the strikes could result in a “ecological, agricultural, and health catastrophe,” government spokesman Olivier Veran told France 2 on Monday, “We don’t want French people to be, quote, unquote, “victims” of a long-term blockade.”
The history of protest movements in France demonstrates that blocking the entire nation and causing severe disruptions to people’s daily lives are not necessary, he continued.
Tuesday is expected to see only one out of every five regional and high-speed trains operate, and a prominent trade unionist for refinery workers has vowed to bring the French economy “to its knees” in the process.
More than 260 protests are anticipated across the country, and 1.1 to 1.4 million people are anticipated to take to the streets, a police source told AFP under the condition of anonymity.
The upper end of that range would mark the largest single day of protests in decades, surpassing both the 1.27 million participants in the demonstrations on January 31 and the 2010 pension reform demonstrations.
One of Macron’s key initiatives for his second term in office is his proposal to raise the retirement age to 64, which he included in his re-election platform last April after defeating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
The 45-year-old described the change as “essential” because the independent Pensions Advisory Council’s analysis predicted that the system would experience deficits for the majority of the ensuing 25 years.
The retirement age in France is still lower than in its neighbors and other significant European economies, where it has already been raised to 65 or higher to reflect the longer life expectancy.
The poll also revealed some good news for the government: 64% of respondents believed that the reform would still be implemented in spite of the demonstrations, and the Senate is currently debating the proposed legislation.