France’s President, Emmanuel Macron has promised a minimum wage rise and tax concessions in response to weeks of violent protests.
France has seen four weekends of violent protests against fuel tax rises, living costs and other issues. The protesters adopted ‘yellow-vest movement’ after a social-media campaign urging people to take to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow jackets that must be carried in every vehicle in France.
They were initially protesting against a rise in duties on diesel, which is widely used by French motorists and has long been less heavily taxed than other types of fuel.
Speaking in a televised address, Macron, who has until now kept a low profile during the protests, condemned the violence but said the protesters’ anger was “deep, and in many ways legitimate”.
He acknowledged that many people were unhappy with living conditions and felt they “had not been listened to”, pledging that the minimum wage would increase by €100 per month from 2019.
Macron 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.
He assured that planned tax increase for low-income pensioners would be cancelled, overtime pay would no longer be taxed, and employers would be encouraged to pay a tax-free end of year bonus to employees.
However, the France President refused to reinstate a tax on the wealthy, saying “this would weaken us, we need to create jobs”.
He promised to meet mayors from all the regions of France, and encourage “unprecedented debate”, he added that “we must tackle the question of immigration” and urged the nation to come together to “change in order to take into account climate change and other challenges”.