News Digest: Will This Be France’s Hottest Summer Ever (Plus, More Strikes!)



News Digest: Will This Be France’s Hottest Summer Ever (Plus, More Strikes!)

Yesterday’s May Day demonstrations were the latest (but not the last!) of France’s pension reform protests, plus the French SMIC (minimum wage) has increased, and there’s hot weather on its way across France. Here are the French news stories you need to know about this week.

1. Pension strikes continue

Yesterday (May 1st) saw record numbers of protesters take to the streets for the Fete du Travail (Worker’s Day) to protest against Macron’s highly controversial pension reforms, which were last week approved by the Constitutional Council. Participants were estimated at 2.3 million by the unions, although the official government figures put the turn out around 782,000 – quite a large difference, although even the lower figure represents the highest turnout for May 1 protests since 2002.

Marches and demonstrations took place in cities nationwide, with incidents of violence by police and marchers making the headlines in Paris, Lyon, and Nantes, and some 540 people were arrested across the country. Although politicians and unions have widely condemned the violence, the strikes don’t look to be going away anytime soon, with French unions calling another national strike day for next Tuesday, May 2nd.

As for the pension reforms, here’s what happens next: tomorrow (Wednesday, May 3rd), the Constitutional Council will rule on a second request to hold a referendum on the pension reforms, followed by a motion against raising the retirement age that will be debated and voted on in parliament on June 8. However, neither of these events seem likely to prevent the reforms from passing into law, and the bill is set to come into force on September 1st.

2. Is France set for another heatwave this summer?

Météo France announced their predictions for the next few months’ weather in France, and it looks like the mercury is on the rise. Temperatures are set to be “warmer than normal” throughout all of France for May, June, and July, in fitting with Europe-wide trends for rising temperatures.

While this won’t be bad news for French residents and second-home owners hoping to make the most of May’s many holiday weekends (more on that below), a more worrying side effect is that 19 French departments have already been placed on drought alert. Spring water restrictions are now in place for the following departements, and residents should adhere to local guidelines regarding hosepipe and water usage: Ain, Alpes Maritimes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Ardèche, Aude, Bouches-du-Rhône, Deux-Sèvres, Drôme, Gard, Haute-Saône, Hérault, Isère, Loiret, Oise, Pyrénées-Orientales, Var, Vaucluse, Vienne, and Yvelines. 

3. France’s SMIC (minimum wage) rises

France’s minimum wage, or SMIC, has increased by 2.19% as of yesterday, May 1st, in line with inflation. The new minimum wage is now set at €11.52 per hour – increased from the previous €11.27 – which works out at €1,747.20 gross or €1,383.08 net per month.

The figures are not only of interest to those living and working in France but also to French visa applicants – the SMIC amount is the general reference point used to calculate the sufficient funds required for visa applicants.

(Speaking of French visas, if you missed last week’s visas & health insurance webinar, you can now watch the replay over on our YouTube channel here).


Don’t forget that next Monday (May 8th) is another bank holiday or jour férié in France – the second of four (yes, four!) long weekends this May. VE Day marks the end of WWII in Europe, so expect remembrance parades and ceremonies to be held throughout France, as well as the inevitable surge of holiday weekend traffic on the motorways and around beaches, tourist resorts, and large cities.

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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  • Chris Nation
    2023-05-03 09:36:09
    Chris Nation
    Three years ago I posted a question on an anglophone forum, addressed to residents,"Does your lawn look like a digestive biscuit?". I asked the question a couple of months too early because all replied that their grass was green. It didn't stay that way. Nevertheless, I had my suspicions about the trend in the climate and switched my search from south of the Loire to Normandy. To say that I was surprised when Mairie of Vire [Calvados] 60kms south of The Channel, declared a water shortage/emergency regs last summer would be an understatement - drought in Normandy ? Whatever next ? Those looking to buy south of the Loire must now take prolonged periods of elevated temps into consideration in terms of what to do to mitigaate this. Amongst other issues, if you have a pool or plan to install one, will you be allowed to fill it? The answer was 'no' in many areas last summer. Watering grass to avoid the 'digestive biscuit effect' was also banned.