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Pension reform in France turns violent.

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In an effort to help the French economy recover, President Sarkozy is moving to increase the national retirement age from age 60 to 62 (still one of Europe’s youngest retirement ages). As a result, protests have erupted throughout the nation.

This week, some three million took to the streets across France, resulting in the torching of vehicles, smashing of store fronts, and clashes with riot police. Aviation workers are on strike, grounding hundreds of flights. Petroleum refinery workers are striking, resulting in the closure of nearly a third of the gas stations nationwide. The domino effect of no gas has forced many who want to work to remain home without transportation.  In the face of all this, Mr. Sarkozy is strong and insistent on the retirement age reform measures (Associated Press, October 19, 2010).

Observers believe the actions of protestors are due in part to those “nearing” the current retirement age who will be “backed up” in receiving benefits they have been counting on, and the fact that one of the largest groups of unemployed members of the French society are over the age of 55 (RT.com, October 20, 2010).

Civil unrest could signal national instability to some European leaders, further pushing the effort for a more central government and one strong leader. The outcomes of the current situation in France bear watching.