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Hundreds of thousands in France are again protesting raising the retirement age

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Today, for the third time, tens of thousands of workers walked off the job and onto the streets of France. They're protesting President Emmanuel Macron's plans to overhaul the pension system, most notably his plans to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, which the government says is necessary to keep the system solvent. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports that opposition is growing.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: There's not just the battle in the street now; there's also a full-fledged confrontation in the French parliament as debate over the retirement reform bill got underway this week. Some 20,000 amendments have been attached as opponents try to derail it. The debate is launching new political stars from the far left...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RACHEL KEKE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: ...Like French Ivorian former hotel janitor Rachel Keke, who said no one has the right to cut down the little people who keep France going.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEKE: (Speaking French).

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOUIS BOYARD: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Then, there's enigmatic 22-year-old parliamentarian Louis Boyard, who was inspiring students to block their schools and join protests in the streets.

Polls show about two-thirds of the French are against the measure. Those vehemently opposed have doubled from 26- to 42% since last fall. People feel the retirement overhaul puts the burden of fixing the system on those who toil in difficult jobs, and they say there's more to life than work. Macron has, so far, refused to budge on making the French work longer. Unions have vowed to keep up the pressure with more strikes and protests to come.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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