11 Dec 2018

Macron promises minimum wage rise

10:40 am on 11 December 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to cut taxes for pensioners and raise the minimum wage but refused to reinstate a wealth tax, as he responded to protests that have challenged his authority.

French President Emmanuel Macron  at the Elysee Palace in Paris

Photo: 123RF

"We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns," Macron said in a TV address to the nation.

France has seen four weekends of violent protests against fuel tax rises, living costs and other issues.

Speaking in a televised address to the nation, Mr Macron said that the anger of protesters was "deep, and in many ways legitimate".

The minimum wage would increase by 100 euros ($NZ165) per month from 2019, he said.

A planned tax increase for low-income pensioners would be cancelled, while employers would be asked to pay a tax-free end-of-year bonus to employees, he added.

Mr Macron, who has until now kept a low profile during the protests, acknowledged that many people were unhappy with living conditions and felt they "had not been listened to".

He said that over the last 40 years there had been "a malaise" of "villages and neighbourhoods where public services have been diminishing, where living conditions had deteriorated".

There were many "people whose status in society had not been sufficiently well recognised. In a cowardly way, we had got used to it and everything seemed to suggest that we had forgotten them.

"I assume my share of the situation - I may have given you the feeling I have other concerns and priorities. I know some of you have been hurt by my words," he added.

Mr Macron, a former banker, has previously been criticised for being out of touch and not listening to the struggles of ordinary people.

- BBC / Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs