French Students Join Pension Protests Tens of thousands of high school students have joined the massive demonstrations in France against the government's plan to change the country's retirement system. But why would the students be protesting a change that won't affect them for decades?
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French Students Join Pension Protests

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French Students Join Pension Protests

French Students Join Pension Protests

French Students Join Pension Protests

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/130793571/130793567" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Tens of thousands of high school students have joined the massive demonstrations in France against the government's plan to change the country's retirement system. But why would the students be protesting a change that won't affect them for decades?

GUY RAZ, Host:

Unidentified Group: Resistance.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL PROTEST)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Seventeen-year-old Antoine Derri(ph) says the government's law to raise the minimum retirement age to 62 directly affects young people like him.

ANTOINE DERRI: (Through translator) In France, 25 percent of young people are currently unemployed. So lengthening the work time of seniors is going to worsen the situation for us, because these are jobs that will not be freed up for young people to take.

BEARDSLEY: Seventeen-year-old Simon Sultan(ph) says he's having a good time and his parents don't mind because they're probably out here too.

SIMON SULTAN: (Through translator) We blocked our high schools this morning and we all met up in Paris to protest. It's a great day, and everyone is here. We won't give up. We're going to the end.

BEARDSLEY: That's just the point, says journalist Peter Gumbel, who has covered France for Time and Fortune magazines.

PETER GUMBEL: The French schools, you don't have any sports worth talking about, a little bit of sport. But (unintelligible) sports teams, for example. So you don't have any outlets.

BEARDSLEY: Gumbel says on the whole, schools in France are old-fashioned, authoritarian institutions where kids have no sense of community or fun.

GUMBEL: School is a place where, you know, you have to go, and you have to suffer these indignities and humiliations, and you have to because it's important for your life, but you hate it. And so you have this combination of high stress and no sense of belonging and no sort of outlets.

BEARDSLEY: In parliament last week, conservative Prime Minister Francois Fillon lashed out at the Socialists, accusing them of trying to manipulate young people.

FRANCOIS FILLON: (Through translator) Shame on you who are calling on young high school students to come out in the streets just to beef up your demonstrations. You are sacrificing their futures.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR news, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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