"Yellow Vests" protesters confront police near the Arch of Triumph in Paris, France, on Dec. 8, 2018. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at "Yellow Vests" protesters marching in Paris on Saturday in the fourth week-end action despite President Emmanuel Macron's series of concessions. (Xinhua/Chen Yichen)
Still grappling with the "Yellow Vests" protests, French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday sought to dampen the social uproar with an "economic and social emergency plan," offering to increase the minimum wage and tax cuts for pensioners.
In a nationally televised address, Macron reassured voters that he heard their "anger and indignation," admitting that "without doubt", the authorities have not been able to give a sufficiently fast and strong response for a year and a half. The president said,"I take my share of responsibility."
Pledging to respond quickly and concretely to the social anger over the public's dwindling purchasing power, the president announced that people on the minimum wage would see their salaries rise by 100 euros (113.52 U.S. dollars) a month as of January 2019 without extra cost to the employers.
He also decided to eliminate taxes on overtime pay, cut taxes for pensioners and offer an end-of-year bonus to workers. Meanwhile, he refused to review the wealth tax.
"I ask the government and parliament to do what is necessary so that one can live better from his work from the beginning of next year," the president said.
Started on Nov. 17, the "Yellow Vests" movement began as a protest against a rise in fuel tax, which Macron said was necessary to combat climate change.
The movement has since turned into a bigger uprising denouncing a squeeze on household spending and high living costs caused by the president's fiscal and economic reforms, which the protesters say favors the rich and offers little to the needy. Several protesters have urged Macron to step down, and many of them are still gridlocking motorways and tunnel entrances, and blocking access to shopping centers during the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. (1 euro = 1.135 U.S. dollar)