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In France, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets as part of a second round of protests over pension reform plans.

The 24-hour strike has affected schools, transport and public services across the country.

The action is being widely seen across Europe as a key test for President Sarkozy as governments across the bloc seek to implement austerity measures.

France’s lower house has already approved raising the retirement age from 60 to 62.

But union leaders like Charles Pellotiere hope to influence the upcoming debate in the Senate, France’s upper house of parliament.

“This legislation is not fair especially for women who have had partial careers or worked part-time. Women will be required to work until the age of 67 and thus will be penalised by the reform bill,” he said.

President Sarkozy has indicated that he’s willing to make marginal concessions but remains firm on the central pillar of raising the retirement age for those who want full benefits.

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