Macron abandons raising retirement age as protests continue


French President Emmanuel Macron has scrapped plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, as tens of thousands of anti-government activists – many donning yellow vests – returned to the streets of Paris and elsewhere on Saturday to protest the proposed pension reforms, according to the New York Times.

The mood was militant, and the more violent demonstrators once again clashed with the police, even as they sowed a trail of damage through eastern Paris. A bank branch was sacked, and bus shelters smashed and fires set. Unions said 150,000 protesters were in the streets of Paris on Saturday. –NYT

Saturday’s demonstrations included exchanges between rock-throwing protesters and the police, who used tear gas, water cannons and other crowd control measures as the day wore on. At one point a building was set on fire.

The government of France plays a major role in retirement pensions – both providing and guaranteeing funds and overseeing the entire system.

The bid to boost the retirement age infuriated moderate unions Macron relies on, despite his insistence that French citizens need to work longer in order to keep the pension system – which may be facing a $19 billion deficit – financially sound.

In a Saturday letter from Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the Macron administration said that it would “withdraw” the new age limit, and postpone major decisions on how to keep the system solvent until it can better assess the situation “between now and the end of April.”

Macron described it as a “constructive compromise,” which French union CFDT applauded. The CGT union called the measure “a smokescreen,” however, which protesters agreed with as they took to the streets on Saturday.