Pension reform in France 'a response to gilets jaunes'

Government spokesperson under fire for comments made during TV interview

Controversial pension reforms in France are a direct result of the gilets jaunes' protests, government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye has said, prompting outrage from political opponents on social media

"This reform is one of the responses to the gilets jaunes' crisis. It is above all one of the responses to the significant injustices that exist in our country," Ms Ndiaye told Franceinfo.

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The government's pension reform project is still the subject of consultation between the government, unions and employers, and will not reach the assembly until next year. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and High Commissioner Jean-Paul Delevoye are expected to make announcements by the end of the year, when more details of the plans may emerge.

But already, the prospect of reform has unions up in arms. The December 5 protests are primarily in protest over feared changes to pension systems.

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And Ms Ndiaye's comments have added fuel to the fire. La France insoumise MP Clémentine Autain was scathing with her response on Twitter.

France's official retirement age is 62, but the country has more than 40 different pension systems, with some allowing workers to retire in their mid- to late fifties or even their earlier.

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Just 3% of employees in France work in industries with special pension regimes another La France insoumise MP claimed, as he took a swipe at the government for pointing the finger at them in a bid to gain support for its pension reform plans.

Mr Macron has previously described such regimes as a relic "from another era", while government officials have branded them as 'corporatist demands'.

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But MP Adrien Quatennens said the government's claims are a smokescreen intended to divert the attention of the general public: "There is talk of special regimes that allow the government to stir up divisions, but these special regimes represent only 3% of the working population."

A Franceinfo study suggested the figure may be half Mr Quatennens' estimate

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