- By Kathyrn Armstrong
- BBC News
French President Emmanuel Macron has signed into law one of his government’s most unpopular pension reforms, raising the state pension age from 62 to 64.
It came just hours after France’s top constitutional body approved the change.
The Constitutional Council rejected opposition calls for a referendum – but it also attacked some aspects of the reforms, citing legal flaws.
Following the council’s ruling, protesters across Paris set fires and 112 people were arrested.
There were 12 days of protests against the reforms since January.
Unions have vowed to continue to oppose the reforms and have called on workers across France to return to the streets on May 1.
President Macron argues that reforms are necessary to prevent the collapse of the pension system. In March, the government used a special constitutional power to implement the changes without a referendum.
He signed the reform bill early Saturday morning.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt has said he expects the reforms to come into effect by early September.
After Friday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court, unions unsuccessfully appealed to the president not to sign the pension age increase law.
Unions pointed out that six concessions included in the reforms were rejected by the court, so what was already unfair was now “even more unbalanced”.
Among the reforms struck by the nine members of the Constitutional Council was a so-called “senior code” aimed at requiring companies with more than 1,000 workers to hire employees over the age of 55.
Mr Dussopt has pledged to improve the employment rate of the over-50s in a bid to ease concerns about the financial impact of a raised pension age.
Authorities had banned demonstrations in front of the Constitutional Council building in Paris until Saturday morning, but crowds of protesters gathered nearby on Friday and mocked the ruling.
Some protesters chanted that they will continue the protest until the changes are rolled back.
Later, several fires were set across the city as riot police tried to control the situation, sometimes using tear gas. A Paris police official said 112 people had been arrested.
Fires were set during demonstrations in Rennes and Nantes, while in Lyon there were sometimes tense stand-offs between protesters and police.
Lucy, 21, was one of the protesters who gathered outside City Hall and told the BBC she was disappointed “we don’t have the power anymore”.
“No matter how much we shout, no one listens to us,” he added, vowing to keep talking.
Raphaëlle, 21, said she hoped the council’s ruling would have something to do with the overwhelming consensus on the streets against the reforms.
Barricades were set up in the streets near the court, and riot police were deployed in case of violent protests.
Lucas, 27, said he was worried about the future and Mr Macron’s tenure as president.
The left-wing Nupes political alliance was among the groups that appealed the reforms to court, and its leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, said the “fight” would continue.
“The decision of the Constituent Assembly shows that the presidential monarchy is paying more attention to the needs of the sovereign people than to the needs of the sovereign people,” he said.
Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally, which appealed to the court, responded on social media that “the political fate of the pension reform is not sealed”.
Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne tweeted on Friday, “No winner tonight, no loser”.
Although the court rejected an initial bid for a referendum on the reforms, it will decide next month on the left’s further proposal for a national referendum.
Antoine Bristel, a French political analyst, told the BBC that he did not see an end to the protests that have been raging across France for the past three months.
“A lot of people said that the reforms will be passed and the Constitutional Court will not avoid it, so that’s not surprising,” he said.
“But with 70% of French people still against reform, I think we will see a lot of riots and strikes in the country in the coming hours and over the weekend.”