“We are strong, we are proud, we are feminist, radical and angry”. In recent weeks, this classic hymn of feminist protest has echoed through demonstrations against the Government’s pension reform. Women are at the forefront of dissent to the policy, which plans to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 and to increase the number of active years required to obtain a full pension.
Women will be the biggest losers. In France, as elsewhere, women’s careers are often interrupted. They are the ones who take breaks from work to bear and raise children. They also tend to be the ones who work part-time to care for sick or ageing family members. Plus they are often shut out of leadership roles or positions of responsibility, which are largely entrusted to men.
The consequences of this sexist career structure are economic: women in France earn on average 15.8% less than men. It is even worse once they reach retirement age: women’s pensions are 28% lower on average than those of men.
The pension reform risks reinforcing these inequalities by asking women to work longer. Even the Minister Delegate for Parliamentary Relations, Franck Riester, has acknowledged that “women are somewhat penalised by the postponement of the legal retirement age”.
Other factors also play a role, such as the non-recognition of the arduous nature of certain jobs, mostly carried out by women, which deprives them of obtaining early retirement.
In the protests, women’s collectives are hijacking songs and choreographing militant dances to make these inequalities more visible. This year, the traditional Women’s Day demonstration on 8 March has a socially conscious slogan: the abandonment of this anti-feminist pension reform.