Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably become familiar with the Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vest) movement which has spread like wildfire across France in the span of just a few weeks.
I realize I am a bit late to the party in regards to writing about these events, so I wanted to share some links of fellow bloggers who I feel covered the events very thoroughly.
- Diane from Oui in France took an interesting approach to the topic and spoke more about Paris and it being safe for tourists in her post here. Nonetheless she provides some great links providing more information about the protests.
- Mel from France Says gives some really useful background information on the history of the movement on her post here. I really enjoyed reading her post.
To get straight to the point, back at the end of October, President Macron imposed a higher tax on diesel fuel, (which is what the majority of cars in France use) in an attempt to combat climate change and encourage more French people to use public transportation.
To compare to American prices, here is how much gas currently costs in France:
- 3.785 liters = 1 US gallon; 1 euro = $1.14 USD (as of December 30, 2018)
So, 1 liter of diesel is about 1.40€ ($6 per gallon), and diesel is cheaper than gasoline in France, and Macron proposed an additional tax to further increase fuel prices. Understandably, many, many French people were upset, and hence began their right to protest. They called themselves the Gilets Jaunes because it is a law in France (and most of Europe) that all cars contain a yellow vest in case of an emergency.
A shot I took of Gilets Jaunes protestors in Lille in mid-December (I did not participate in the protest)
Many supporters of the movement claim that Macron is ‘le président des riches’, or a president for the rich, and is out of touch with the financial struggles of today’s average French person, as well as the working class (especially in middle, farmland France), whom make, on average, around 1200€ net per month.
On November 17, les Gilets Jaunes took force around the country, virtually bringing it to a halt. I admit that it was impressive, and almost effective. However, things took a turn for the worst a few days later, when two people were killed, 600 injured, and many extremists from both the left and right overtook the movement, with violence erupting in Paris. I personally find it disgusting that so many national monuments were destroyed. While I agree with a person’s right to peacefully protest, I cannot support a movement that has gotten so, so out of control. I am especially torn because I don’t know what is worse: that people felt they had to resort to violence to be heard, or that the government only seemed to hear the people when they resorted to violence?
As of now, Macron has halted the gas tax, and has put a few other implications into place, including raising the minimum wage by 100€ per month, and encouraging employers to offer employees tax and social-charge free end-of-year bonuses (our school has done this, but we are waiting to see who will benefit).
I feel as though the government could do other things besides impose (yet another!) tax. What about halting the creation of diesel-run cars? What about discounts or tax breaks or rebates for people who purchase hybrid or electric cars? (I should also add that in France, your place of employment is required to reimburse 50% of public transport costs (with a monthly or yearly subscription) for employees who take public transportation to work as their main mode).
As an American, my approach is also a bit different– and perhaps much more frank. While I respect the sentiments from many French people in regards to very low salaries, I still feel as though we all have a personal responsibility to get ahead with finances– aka side hustles, instead of relying on the government .
This is another stanch example of a worldwide division of people- I’m curious to see where 2019 will lead us.
What are your opinions on the movement?