LE MANS, France — A fourth weekend of the largest mass demonstrations to hit France in five decades has forced the hand of French President Emmanuel Macron to increase the minimum wage.
The Gilets Jaunes movement, named after the yellow high-visibility vests worn by its members, staged demonstrations in most major cities in France over the weekend. More than 1,700 people were arrested. The movement argues that a tax on fuel imposed by Macron's government — which intended to help the environment — has widened the gulf between rich and poor in France.
In a televised address on Monday, however, Macron said the minimum wage would be raised and taxes on pensioners cut. The measures would take effect on January 1.
Macron was elected in 2017 on a platform that promised to reform France's economy, where workers typically work no more than 35 hours a week. But a series of political missteps have caused his popularity to fall through the floor to just 23 percent in a recent poll. That matches the rating of his loathed predecessor Francois Hollande, the least popular French president in history.
Macron has since been accused of representing the Parisian elite rather than those in rural France, where the latest protest movement started.
"They always talk about having no money left," Peter Pilon said of his fellow demonstrators. "How will I get to work tomorrow? Asking a friend if they [can] lend you 20 or 30 euros [$22 to $34]. There are people who are truly ashamed about their financial situation."
"[Macron] doesn't understand anything; he's disconnected," Pilon added. "In France we say, 'He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.'"
This segment originally aired December 10, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.