France looks to 1995 as it braces for pension reform strikes and protests

French railway workers take part in a street demonstration during one of a series of strikes in 1995.

Paris, France (CNN)The last time France reached for a universal pension system, Jacques Chirac was president, Alain Juppe was his prime minister and, like today, a wave of freezing cold weather had descended on the country.

Juppe, hoping to balance the country's books ahead of the switch to the euro, announced a raft of social security reforms, including the harmonization of France's varied pensions system and the end of the so-called "special regimes" enjoyed by public sector workers.
French Prime Minister Alain Juppé during a weekly parliament question and answer session in November 1995.
After 2 million people took to the streets and nearly three weeks of near total paralysis, the pension reform was dropped -- and Juppe saved his premiership. But not for long. Two years later, right-of-center politicians lost the legislative power they would spend years fighting to regain. Reform has not been attempted since. Until now.
    President Emmanuel Macron has announced reforms that would put an end to the 42 retirement schemes currently in place in France.
    The idea is that the schemes, which include special provisions for certain professions, such as rail workers and train drivers who benefit from early retirement, would be unified into a single points-based system that would give all workers the same rights.
    French President Emmanuel Macron during the NATO summit in the United Kingdom.
    But many fear that under Macron's new universal retirement system, they will have to work longer for less, even though the official retirement age in France is 62 -- one of the lowest among the 36 co