French hold a third day of protest against pension reform

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Media captionFrench hold fresh pension protest

Hundreds of thousands of people across France have taken to the streets to demonstrate against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to raise the retirement age, according to police figures.

More than 200 protests were planned throughout the country.

It is the third day of demonstrations against the proposed reforms, which go before parliament on Tuesday, in the last month.

The government wants the retirement age to rise from 60 to 62.

President Sarkozy says this is essential if the French pension system is to be viable in the long term.

His opponents say society's poorest people will be hit hardest by the changes.

Trade unions in France are proclaiming a success their day of mobilisation against planned reforms of the pension system, says the BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris.

They say nearly three million people - about the same as the previous protest on 23 September - turned out in demonstrations across the country.

The first protest over pensions was on 6 September.

However the interior ministry, using police estimates, says turnout was down, at less than one million on Saturday.

These were the first demonstrations to take place on a non-working day, a change reflected in the make-up of the crowds, with many women and families taking part for the first time, our correspondent says.

The pension reform bill, which has already been passed by France's lower house of parliament, will be debated from 5 October by the upper house, the Senate, where it is expected to pass comfortably.

Controversial proposals

Image caption Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in a third day of protests

French workers can expect to spend more of their life in retirement than those in any other country, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Under current rules, both men and women in France can retire at 60, provided they have paid social security contributions for 40.5 years - although they are not entitled to a full pension until they are 65.

The government says it will save 70bn euros (£58bn) by raising the retirement age to 62 by 2018, the qualification to 41.5 years, and the pension age to 67.

Unions and opposition politicians say the plan puts an unfair burden on workers, particularly women, part-timers and the former unemployed who may struggle to hit the 41.5 year requirement.

They have made counter-proposals, including calls for taxes on certain bonuses and on the highest incomes to help fund the pension system.

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