1 of 2 | Thousands of protesters take part in demonstrations against the French government's reform of the pension system in Paris on Saturday. Photo by Teresa Suarez/EPA-EFE
Feb. 11 (UPI) -- More than 500,000 people took to the streets in France on Saturday to protest President Emmanuel Macron's proposal to raise the country's retirement age to 64, organizers said.
The hardline CGT union claimed a half-million people marched through Paris and other towns across the country.
Authorities, however, said just 57,000 people turned out for the demonstrations, which were the fourth in the last month.
"If the government keeps on refusing to listen then of course things will have to be ratcheted up," said Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, according to Radio France International.
Macron's proposal would raise the legal retirement age from 62 -- when most French workers typically stop working -- to at least 64 or 65, meaning all citizens would need to stay on the job for several additional years to qualify for a full pension.
The plan is deeply unpopular with nearly 70% of French citizens opposing it. Polls show that a majority of young people who will not retire for decades also believe the measure is wrong for the country.
The French president has previously expressed a strong commitment to pension reform, calling it one of his most important pursuits due to an aging population in which millions of retirees currently draw $1,500 per month from the government.
The administration has indicated it does not intend to back down, although Macron has made a few concessions already, including a guarantee that all workers will begin receiving a pension of at least $1,288 per month, which was a major demand from the opposition party.
On Jan. 19 over a million people turned out to protest, and 1.3 million marched on Jan. 31. On Tuesday 757,000 people demonstrated.
Union leaders have agreed to a fifth day of strikes on Thursday and could organize further protests on March 7 and 8, when the government's pension reform bill will be debated in the Senate, RFI reported.