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Anger on the streets as France to lift retirement age

Huge protests have erupted across France against an “unfair and brutal” plan to lift the official retirement age from 62 to 64.

The peak union claimed more than 2.8 million people were protesting across the country in a second nationwide strike.

The backlash is against the government’s unpopular plans to make people work longer before they can claim the full pension.

“This reform is unfair and brutal,” said Luc Farre, the secretary general of the civil servants’ UNSA union on Tuesday (local time).

“Moving [the pension age] to 64 is going backwards, socially.”

France’s retirement age of 62 is lower than most nations in Western Europe.

In Britain, the age of retirement is 66 while Italy, Germany and Spain have moved towards raising it to 67.

In Australia, the retirement age will officially hit 67 in July this year after being incrementally raised from 65 since 2017.

French unions are keeping up pressure after the first protest on January 19 drew more than one million people to the streets.

The second day of nationwide strikes drew thousands of people. Photo: Getty

The stop work order on Tuesday (local time) caused massive disruption and impacted the production of electricity, public transport and schools.

It was reported that 11,000 police were deployed as demonstrations unfolded in more than 200 towns and cities.

Opinion polls show most French people oppose the reform, but President Emmanuel Macron and his government intended to stand their ground.

The reform was “vital” to ensure the pension system keeps working, Mr Macron said.

Pushing back the retirement age by two years and extending the pay-in period would yield an additional 17.7 billion euros in annual pension contributions, allowing the system to break even by 2027, according to labour ministry estimates.

French riot police are deployed during the demonstrations. Photo: Getty

Unions say there are other ways to do this, such as taxing the super rich or asking employers or well-off pensioners to contribute more.

France’s unions said half of primary school teachers would walk off the job.

Oil refinery staff and workers across other sectors, including public broadcasters, which played music instead of news programs, also went on strike.

French power supply was down by 4.4 per cent, or 2.9 gigawatts, as workers at nuclear reactors and thermal plants joined the strike, data from utility group EDF showed.

TotalEnergies said there was no delivery of petroleum products from its French sites because of the strike.

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