3 Oct 2010

Thousands join pension protests in France

10:51 am on 3 October 2010

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in towns and cities across France in protest at government plans to raise the retirement age.

In the fourth round of rallies in as many months, unions said about 2.9 million had marched, while police said the crowds numbered fewer than 900,000.

The demonstrations were the first to take place on a non-working day, a change reflected in the make-up of the crowds, with many women and families taking part for the first time, a BBC correspondent says.

The bill to reform the pension system goes before the upper house of Parliament - the Senate - on Tuesday, the BBC reports.

The Government has made it clear there is room for manoeuvre on some secondary issues but that the key clause, raising the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60, is not open to negotiation.

Under current rules, both men and women in France can retire at 60, provided they have paid social security contributions for 40.5 years - although they are not entitled to a full pension until they are 65.

The government says it will save 70bn euros by raising the retirement age to 62 by 2018, the qualification to 41.5 years, and the pension age to 67.

Unions and opposition politicians say the plan puts an unfair burden on workers, particularly women, part-timers and the former unemployed, and have called for taxes on certain bonuses and on the highest incomes to help fund the pension system.