France yellow vest protests: Macron promises wage rise

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.

Speaking in a televised address, Mr Macron condemned the violence but said the protesters’ anger was “deep, and in many ways legitimate”.

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

A 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, he added.

However, he refused to reinstate a tax on the wealthy, saying “this would weaken us, we need to create jobs”.

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.

Chart showing how Macron's poll ratings compare with his predecessors Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy

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

He sought to change this impression on Monday, pledging to meet mayors from all the regions of France, and encourage “unprecedented debate”.

“We must tackle the question of immigration,” he added, while also urging the nation to come together to “change in order to take into account climate change and other challenges”.

Protest timeline

  • 17 November: 282,000 protesters – one dead, 409 wounded – 73 in custody
  • 24 November: 166,000 protesters – 84 wounded – 307 in custody
  • 1 December: 136,000 protesters – one dead, 263 wounded – 630 in custody
  • 8 December: 136,000 protesters – 118 wounded – 1,220 in custody

Source: www.bbc.com