France hit by strikes, protests over pension reform

An estimated 1.28 million people have participated in a nationwide strike against French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to push forward the retirement age to 64, the interior ministry said.

The figure suggests the demonstrations were some of the biggest in decades, slightly higher than the 1.27 million estimated during a previous round of protests against the reform on January 31.

Across the country, many protest rallies attracted bigger crowds than previous ones organised since mid-January, including in Marseille, one of France’s biggest cities.

France’s nationwide strike, which disrupted train services, shut schools and halted fuel deliveries on Tuesday, will spill into Wednesday as unions stepped up their campaign to force a U-turn on a deeply unpopular policy.

The government insists its reform plan is essential to ensure the pension system does not go bust.The government also says pensions of the poorest 30 percent of the population will increase by 2.5 to 5 percent.

Unions say small increases in contributions could keep the pension system solvent. They say the proposed measures are unfair and would disproportionately affect low-skilled workers in tiring jobs who start their careers early.

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