Macron crisis: French President’s popularity falls further as France braces for strikes

Only 39 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with M Macron, down from 40 percent last month and 43 percent three months ago, according to the Harris Interactive poll for the 24-hour news channel LCI. The Macron government faces a winter of discontent as public sector workers including transport workers, civil servants and teachers prepare to go on strike on Thursday in protest against plans to lower pensions and delay the retirement age.

The reform, which aims to unify 42 different pension schemes into a single, points-based system under which all workers will have the same rights, is potentially explosive.

M Macron says that the proposed changes will make the country’s unwieldy and expensive pension system – which is projected to be in financial deficit in coming years – fairer and more sustainable.

He has also promised not to touch the legal retirement age of 62, but said that new financial incentives may encourage some people to work longer.

But anger is simmering over the government’s plan to scrap the so-called “special pension regimes” of the state-owned railway operator SNCF, the Paris metro company RATP and state utilities such as EDF, whose pension plans receive £4.7billion (€5.5billion) every year from taxpayers to plug their chronic deficit.

The special regimes also allow some workers to retire in their mid to late fifties, or even in their early fifties for Paris metro conductors.

Unions argue that the changes will force people to work longer and for less, and have urged all those affected to take part in Thursday’s strike action.

Anti-government yellow vest activists, students, hospital workers, hauliers and airline ground crew have also announced plans to stage protests.

Over the last three decades, pension reforms by former conservative governments have ignited street protests and failed to plug repeated deficits.

None of the changes has managed to simplify the notoriously complex system.

The centrist government is expected to reveal a draft of the pension reform around December 9 or 10. The bill will be debated by lawmakers next summer.

The pension changes will only apply to people born after 1963 and will enter progressively into force between 2025 and 2040.

• The Harris Interactive poll of 900 people aged 18 and over was conducted online on November 26-28.

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