Emilie Cochaud: Protesters fear reforms will make things even worse

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The Independent Online

President Sarkozy's worst nightmare is the kind of youth protest which has shaken France in the recent or distant past – in 2006 and in May 1968.

The Elysée Palace will have been alarmed to see the tens of thousands of young people who marched through the streets of Paris and other French cities yesterday. But why would students aged between 15 and 25 protest against pension reform?

Jason Gastaud-Lamy, 15, a lycée student from Chelles in the Paris suburbs, came to the march with his friends Victor and Amine, both 17. "Young people are sick to the teeth of Sarkozy," he said. "We're sick of his repressive policies, of his racism, of his persecution of the Roma. But we do care about the pension reform too. If older people have to work longer, there will be no jobs for us when we start looking in two to three years' time."

"And if we have to enter the work force late, we might, under this reform, have to work until we are 67 to get a full pension."

Jason and his friends dismissed the government's argument that the pension reform was intended to relieve young people of the future tax burdens of giant deficits in the pension fund. "Business should pay," he said. "Or the rich."

Other students said that the reform would make it even more difficult for them to find a job, reinforcing their feeling of being a génération sacrifiée or "abandoned generation".

Morgan Casajus, 23, and Charlotte Petre, 20, are students at Nanterre University. "The unemployment rate is already very high and this change is going to make things even worse for us", Mr Casajus said. "Retirement on a full pension at 67 is not a solution. If the elderly have to work longer, they will just be on sick leave more often. I don't see how it's going to be of any help to our social security deficit."

Ms Petre added: "I don't care what age I retire. My real concern is that this reform might be the beginning of something more serious: the end of the whole state pensions' system."