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Tens of Thousands Protest Proposed French Pension Reforms


People march during a protest , in Marseille, southern France, 02 Oct 2010

People march during a protest , in Marseille, southern France, 02 Oct 2010

Demonstrators have taken to streets in cities and towns across France, protesting plans to raise the country's retirement age in order to save money.

Tens of thousands marched through Paris Saturday, with thousands more gathering in Toulouse and other cities. Union officials had said they hoped to draw more than one million people at more than 200 protests nationwide, but police gave lower crowd estimates at many of the rallies lower.

The demonstrations are the latest in an ongoing dispute between the government and labor unions over proposed austerity measures.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said the plan to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 by 2018 is needed to save the country's pension system from collapse.

France's lower house of parliament approved the plan last month and the upper house is expected to debate the measure in the coming days.

The French retirement age is among the lowest in Europe.

French workers have been legally entitled to retire at the age of 60 since 1983, when Socialist President Francois Mitterrand was in office.

Previous protests in France have disrupted public transportation and other services. Striking dock workers have also been blocking the French port of Marseille.

Saturday's protests in France are just the latest in a series of demonstrations across Europe as governments cut wages, pensions and jobs to control rising public debt.

The European Commission has also been considering proposals to punish EU members that continue to run up debt.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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