Leading unions claimed nearly 700,000 people took to the streets of four French cities on Tuesday to protest against proposed changes to the French pensions system, Report informs via RFI.

Twelve days ago, the CGT said 400,000 demonstrators marched through the French capital to complain about President Emmanuel Macron’s vow to raise the pension age to 64 from 62 – which is the lowest level in any major European economy.

Macron made the change part of this re-election manifesto last April.

He insists the reform is essential to guarantee the future financing of the pension system, which is forecast to tip into deficit in the next few years.

Opponents point out that the system is balanced and that the head of the independent Pensions Advisory Council recently told parliament that pension spending was not out of control.

During the middle of the afternoon, unions estimated nearly 500,000 people in Paris while 80,000 were in Toulouse – up from 50,000 12 days ago.

In Bordeaux, there was an increase of 15,000 to 75,000 and in Rennes 31,000 demonstrators had gathered. Initial police estimates said less than 80,000 had gone out in the provincial cities.

In Marseille, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, founder of the La France Insoumise, celebrated what he called a historic day of protests and predicted defeat for Macron.

Elisabeth Borne, the Prime Minister, has said there is room for negotiation on certain aspects of the reform.