December 5 of 2019 was the first day of a wave of metro and transportation strikes that hit France, deadlocking Paris in a dangerous economic pitfall. Metro workers and unions are demonstrating against President Macron’s proposed pension reform plans, which include merging the current 42 different retirement plans into one, increasing the retirement age, and giving pension in proportion to an individual’s contributions. Many feel that these changes would unfairly provide less pension and retirement support, and they have taken to the streets to demonstrate their discontent. The protests have caused a drastic decline in flights, metro lines, and train railways. Currently, the strikes have ended after a length 46 days on January 20th.
The metro strikes left thousands without a way to get to work. Masses of people swarmed the sidewalks, hoping to squeeze onto one of the few buses and transportation services that still ran, but without enough space, this scanty transportation was not enough to serve the tremendous amount of others missing work. The great dependence on public transportation has caused many to resort to walking for hours or even sleeping overnight at their job. Local business owners are forced to stay at their shops and stores overnight to avoid the long journey home and back.
A concerning slowing of business in some boutiques and shops has forced some to close down as the economic depression worsens. Commuters and locals have no time for extra stops at diners and shops, plunging stores into an economic depression that not many have climbed out of. The situation is worsened by the fact that the strikes started before and peaked during the holiday season, cutting a large source of business and income for local owners. Furthermore, tourism also came to a sluggish halt. France and Paris especially rely heavily on tourism as a source of income and economic stability. However, tourists struggled to visit classic monuments like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe from lack of transportation. The French Government had to close down the Eiffel Tower as a result.
As the strikes come to a close, we can only hope that a similar large-scale protest does not reoccur as the already delicate balance in their economic system has seen catastrophic effects.
By Jessica Jiang