Between the closure of refineries and the obstruction of transportation, airlines and shipping, demonstrations and strikes rejecting the reform of the retirement law began to weigh significantly on the French economy, as its cost is estimated in the billions, in addition to affecting the credibility and image of the country's economy in the global scene in general.
What are the repercussions of strikes on the French economy?
Camille Sari, a professor of economics and international relations at the University of Sopron, believes that the transport sector is among the sectors most affected by the protests that have been going on for weeks, as the loss of the French railways “SNCF” (SNCF) amounts to about 20 million euros on each strike day, because it must It has to pay off thousands of tickets and pay compensation to passengers.
As for public transport in Paris, RATP, the bill amounts to 3 million euros per day, and 8 million euros for Air France.
Sari estimates, in his interview with Al-Jazeera Net, that the French gross domestic product is suffering from a decline of 0.3%, with expectations that it will reach 0.6% if the demonstrations continue at the same pace.
Also, the activity of companies and stores slows down by at least 20% on the day of the strike, especially in Paris, which is the heart of the demonstrations against the pension reform law, and 6 out of 10 companies suffer from a decrease in sales volume due to the strike, according to the French institutions organization "MED". EF" (MEDEF).
According to data from the Trade Alliance, the demonstrations on March 23 caused a drop in daily turnover by 19% in Paris, 60% in Rennes, 30% in Bordeaux, and 29% in Toulouse.
For its part, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry "CCI France" denounced the negative impact of the demonstrations on commercial activity, noting that domestic commerce in France represents 634 thousand companies and 3.5 million jobs.
The Minister Delegate responsible for Tourism, Olivia Gregoire, sounded the alarm about the impact of the social movement on the hotel and restaurant services sector, at rates ranging between 8% and 23%.
What sectors are most affected?
Strikes and protests disrupted the activity of vital sectors in the country, especially transport and energy, as a number of workers affiliated with social movements shut down several nuclear power plants of the French Electricity Company "EDF".
"Disrupting a nuclear power plant costs one million euros per day, and if we multiply this number by the number of reactors in France, the bill will be very high," says Damien Martinez, a member of the federal administration of the public service union CJT.
This comes in conjunction with the country's inability to produce electricity due to maintenance work in a number of reactors, which forces it to buy electricity from other European countries, which doubles the final cost of energy.
With regard to the fuel sector, French refineries have stopped production several times, and a number of stations suffer from fuel shortages due to supply problems.
Martinez explains – in an interview with Al-Jazeera Net – that unions do not choose certain sectors at the expense of others, because the matter is related to employees who strike. For example, the strike of the cleaners had no direct economic impact, but it highlighted the scale of the crisis and made everyone wonder. What is happening in France all over the world.
Why is the government trying to withhold information about the repercussions of the strike on the French economy?
Al-Jazeera Net tried to contact the Ministry of Economy, the National Association of French Railways, TotalEnergies, and the Chamber of Commerce, to obtain official figures on the damage caused by the strikes, but these authorities declined to comment or provide a response.
Economic analyst Camille Sari considered, "This unjustified abstention is a kind of deception, because the government has all the detailed information about the current crisis, and its departments have specialized people in this regard, but fortunately there are reports that reveal the extent of the damage to the French economy."
While Martinez – a member of the most prominent trade union in the country – believes that the withholding of information pursued by the French government is related to its unwillingness to give credibility to the protest movement, saying, "We can see this clearly in the big difference between the numbers that we announce and those that the government reveals when talking about The number of participants during the protests, it is flimsy propaganda aimed at reducing the impact of social conflict and making the strike recede."
Is hitting the economy a pressure card to win the battle?
The labor unions and the rest of the opponents of the pension reform law, which French President Emmanuel Macron insists on, believe that the government has lost its battle against the protest movement, because the latter managed to convince the people of the need to reject the provisions of the law altogether.
Martinez says, "Our demands are fair and legitimate, but the President of the Republic made his political choice to reassure his rich friends at the expense of the entire French people, and this is what the local media does not talk about."
Since the start of the demonstrations last January, popular rejection of the law has reached a historic level, which opens the door to expectations that the political opposition will be able to challenge the reforms in order to propose a popular referendum on them.
Martinez explains that "the culture of the workers' strike has not died yet, and when looking at the history of the social movement, we can be proud that thanks to it, the French were able in 2006 to force French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to abandon the first employment contract" CPE "", which It proposes new contracts for those under the age of 26 for a maximum period of two years during which employers can fire an employee without good reason.
Will the French government accept to save the economy?
Economist Camille Sari confirms that the government will not back down from implementing the new law, especially after it resorted to Article 49.3 of the constitution to pass reforms without the need for a vote by Parliament, because despite the loss of an important percentage of the French GDP, it may compensate for that after 10 years through A guarantee of 37 billion euros for pensions.
He added that Macron's government is betting on a gradual decline in the pace of strikes in the long term, because it is aware that the strikers are exposed to an important financial loss from their salaries every day they participate in the strike.
Although there are strike funds supervised by a number of trade unions, they remain limited and unable to compensate hundreds of thousands of strikers throughout the country.
Sari believes that the current demonstrations are weak compared to the demonstrations of 2006 when the French went out to protest against the "first employment contract" during the presidency of Jacques Chirac. For example, all metro lines in Paris and its suburbs were suspended, unlike what is happening now, where strikes do not paralyze movement. Transport fully and efficiently.
At the same time, the economic analyst believes that the most important concern of the Macron government today is the extremism of the social movement and its transformation into acts of violence. In an unprecedented incident, the yellow vests movement burned an entire municipal headquarters in the Haute-Loire region in December 2018, and when the French president visited the place to support the employees there, he was attacked directly by the yellow vests, but he was able to evade them and flee thanks to his armored car.