‘We can defeat Macron’: Why women’s anger is fuelling French pension protests

© Benjamin Dodman, FRANCE 24

Huge crowds marched across France on Tuesday in a sixth round of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age, signalling continued opposition to a controversial reform that polls say up two three-quarters of French women reject.

In the French capital, where organisers say well over half a million people turned out (police put the number at fewer than 100,000), unionists and left-wing parties traded their traditional eastern rallying points for the wealthy 6th arrondissement (district) of central Paris, gathering along the fashionable boulevards of the left bank.

Outside the famed Lutetia palace hotel, puzzled tourists and shoppers worked their way through a sea of union and other flags. A few steps away, dozens of women danced to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive”, each of them dressed as the feminist champion Rosie the Riveter in her iconic blue overalls.

Among them was Camille, a 54-year-old publisher who said she turned out to protest in solidarity with the low-income workers – many of them women – who “stand to lose most” from the pension overhaul. She slammed a reform “hashed out in a hurried and brutal manner, without consultations and despite overwhelming opposition”.

“Women are structurally underpaid and their pensions are lower as a result. And yet they have some of the most exhausting jobs, working absurd hours on top of caring for the young and the elderly,” she said, pointing to the fact that women's pensions are on average 40 percent lower than men's.

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