Yellow vests movement

Yellow vests movement
Gilets jaunes protests
ManifGiletsJaunesVesoul 17nov2018 (cropped).jpg
A gilets jaunes demonstration in Vesoul, eastern France
Date17 November 2018 – ongoing
Location
Caused by
Goals
  • Decrease of fuel and motor taxes[11]
  • Improved standards of living
  • Rise in minimum wage[12]
  • Resignation of President Emmanuel Macron and his government
  • End to unpopular austerity measures
  • Government transparency and accountability to the working and middle classes
MethodsProtests, civil disobedience, barricades, blocking traffic, disabling radars, rioting,[13][14] vandalism,[15] arson[16][17] and looting.[18]
StatusOngoing, as of December 11, 2018.[19]
Concessions
given
  • Cancellation of the gas tax and a six-month moratorium on diesel and gasoline price changes by the French government[19]
  • a promise to raise the minimum wage by €100 per month by 2019[20]
  • An announcement that the price of the Électricité de France blue tariffs would not increase before March 2019.[21]
  • The elimination of tax on overtime and end-of-the-year bonuses[22]
Number
287,710 protesters at the peak (per French interior ministry)[23]
Casualties
Death(s)4 civilians (in France)[24]
Injuries1000+ civilians
~200+ injured police officers
Arrested1600 people (as of 4 December 2018)[25]
More than 2300 (8 December 2018 alone)[26]

The yellow vests movement (French: Mouvement des gilets jaunes, pronounced [ʒilɛ ʒon]), also referred to as the yellow jacket movement, is a protest movement that started online in May 2018 and led to demonstrations that began in France on 17 November 2018 and rapidly spread to Wallonia, the formerly heavily industrialised southern part of Belgium. The yellow vest was chosen as a symbol, because all French motorists had been required by law (since 2008) to have high-visibility vests in their vehicles when driving (as a safety measure should the driver be required to exit the vehicle on the roadside). As a result, reflective vests have become widely available, inexpensive and symbolic.[11] By early December 2018, the symbol had become increasingly common from Europe to Iraq, as different groups made use of their high-visibility vests to draw attention to their agendas.

Motivated by rising fuel prices, the high cost of living and claims that a disproportionate burden of the government's tax reforms were falling on the working and middle classes[27][28][29] (especially those in rural and peri-urban areas),[6][30] protesters have called for reductions in fuel taxes, the reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, the raising of the minimum wage, and the resignation of the President of France, Emmanuel Macron.

Background

Diesel

Since the 1950s, the French government has subsidized the production of diesel engines. In particular, since 1980 Peugeot has been at the forefront of diesel technology. A reduction in VAT taxes for corporate fleets also increased the prevalence of diesel cars in France.[31]

Fuel prices

The price of petrol (SP95-E10) decreased during 2018, from 1.4682 €/L in January to 1.4305 €/L in the last week of November.[32] Prices of petrol and diesel fuel increased by 15% and 23% respectively between October 2017 and October 2018.[33] The world market purchase price of petrol for distributors increased by 28% over the previous year; for diesel, by 35%. Costs of distribution increased by 40%. VAT included, diesel taxes increased by 14% over one year and petrol taxes by 7.5%.[33] The tax increase had been 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol in 2018, with a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol planned for 1 January 2019.[34][35]

The taxes collected on the sale of fuel are:

  • The domestic consumption tax on energy products (TICPE, la Taxe intérieure de consommation sur les produits énergétiques), which is not calculated based on the price of oil, but rather at a fixed rate by volume. Part of this tax, paid at the pump, goes to regional governments, while another portion goes to the national government. Since 2014, this tax has included a carbon component—increased each year—in an effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The TICPE for diesel fuel was raised sharply in 2017 and 2018 to bring it to the same level as the tax on petrol.
  • Value added tax (VAT), calculated on the sum of the price excluding tax and the TICPE. Its rate has been stable at 20% since 2014, after having been at 19.6% between 2000 and 2014.

The protest movement against fuel prices mainly concerns individuals, as a number of professions and activities benefit from partial or total exemptions from TICPE.[36][37]

The protesters criticize Édouard Philippe's second government for making individuals liable for the bulk of the cost of the carbon tax. As the carbon tax has progressively been ramping up to meet ecological objectives, many who have chosen fossil fuel-based heating for their homes, outside of city centers—where a car is required—are displeased. President Macron attempted to dispel these concerns in early November by offering special subsidies and incentives.[38]

Diesel prices in France increased by 16% in 2018, with taxes on both petrol and diesel increasing at the same time and a further tax increase planned for 2019, making diesel as expensive as petrol.[39] President Macron is bearing the brunt of the protesters' anger for his extension of policies implemented under François Hollande's government.[39]

A high-visibility vest, the key symbol of the protests

Other non-union protests

One of the first known demonstrations in France against the taxation of petrol prices dates back to 1933 in Lille. The movement against tax increases also evokes the "poujadism" of the 1950s, which mobilized the middle classes and was articulated around a tax revolt. "Slow-down movements" were also organized in the 1970s. In July 1992, such a movement was set up to protest against the introduction of the points-based permit.[40]

Economic reforms

The protesters claim that the fuel tax is intended to finance tax cuts for big business, with some critics such as Dania Koleilat Khatib claiming that spending should be cut instead.[41][42] Macron said the goal of the administration's economic reform program is to increase France's competitiveness in the global economy, and says that the fuel tax is intended to discourage fossil-fuel use.[38] Many of the yellow jackets are primarily motivated by economic difficulties due to low salaries and high energy prices.[43] The yellow jacket movement wants to fight climate change, but are opposed to forcing the working class and the poor pay for a problem caused by multinational corporations.[44][45]

Other Languages
Bahasa Indonesia: Gerakan rompi kuning
Simple English: Yellow vests movement