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‘Yellow vest’ protests to hit Eiffel Tower on Saturday

Un gilet jaune brandit une pancarte sur la rocade de Rennes (Bretagne), le 20 novembre 2018.
Un gilet jaune brandit une pancarte sur la rocade de Rennes (Bretagne), le 20 novembre 2018. SEBASTIEN SALOM GOMIS / AFP

Protests against rising fuels prices are set to take place in the heart of Paris on Saturday, with the yellow vests, or gilets jaunes movement to descend on the Champs de Mars, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

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The gilets jaunes are to stage their third day of nationwide demonstrations to express anger at President Emmanuel Macron’s tax reforms.

The movement – named after the yellow high-visibility vests motorists are required to carry in their cars – was sparked by rising diesel prices, which many blame on taxes implemented in recent years as part of France’s anti-pollution fight.

Poorer under Macron

The gilets jaunes movement quickly turned into a protest by rural and small-town France over falling spending power of people who say they are poorer under Macron, dubbed the “president of the rich.”

Hundreds of thousands of protesters blocked roads across France last weekend, with two people killed and more than 500 injured in clashes between drivers and demonstrators. 

Many of those who were part of the nationwide protests are expected to descend on the Champs de Mars on Saturday.

Purchasing power

In addition to fuel price hikes, protesters are angered by the impact rising living costs are having of pensions and salaries. A study by the French Observatory of Economic Conditions found that annual disposable incomes in France have fell by 440 Euros between 2008 and 2016.

"The problem is that before the financial crisis there was an increase that was the trend until 2008. The standard of living per household has not returned to its pre-crisis level," said Mathieu Plane, economist at the OFCE.    

The situation should gradually improve, according to Emmanuel Jessua, director of studies at the Rexecode Institute. "Throughout 2018 we are expecting an overall improvement in the purchasing power of households, in the range of 1.3 percent".  

However, the uptick will not benefit people on low income, who may even see their disposable income decrease slightly in 2018 and 2019, according to a study by the Institute of Public Policy.

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