PARIS, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Millions of people including union members, political leaders, young workers and students marched through France's main cities on Saturday in their third attempt to force Nicolas Sarkozy's government to back off on retirement reforms.
According to labor unions' figures, about 2.9 million demonstrators participated in protests and strikes across the country. But the French Interior Ministry said the figure was just 899,000.
In Paris some 310,000 protesters took to the streets to protest against the raise of retirement age, said the unions. But police said only 63,000 people took part in the demonstration.
In Rennes, some 13,500 to 20,000 people participated in the demonstration. In Toulouse, the number of participants was 125,000 on the union side, but only 28,000 on the police side.
The demonstration in Paris has a scale similar to the previous one, but the scale of demonstration has declined on the national level, the Interior Ministry said.
During the last protest on Sept. 23, union leaders said about 3 million people participated, while the government reported only 997,000 participants.
"Demonstrations become wider and we have a large number of people supporting us. Surveys are clear to show more than 70 percent of the French ask the government to change the reforms, and it can not pretend not to hear these calls," Francois Chereque, general secretary of the CFDT labor union, told BFM TV channel.
"We are in the streets and this means we hope to obtain things and the government has to change its attitude," he added.
However, Secretary of State for Public Service George Tron didn 't consider the new demonstrations an augmentation of public discontent.
"It's more of a slight inflection," said Tron, adding that the government has convinced some people of the necessity of the reform and what is needed now is to "do the same campaign to explain."
President Sarkozy has insisted on pressing ahead the retirement reforms, which would raise the French people's retirement age from 60 to 62 to create financial resources enough to finance pensions and trim budget gap.
Meanwhile, he also made a few compromises, such as setting lower retirement ages for several laborious or grueling jobs, and allowing people who start working before age 18 to maintain an early retirement.
According to the government, the increase of the retirement age will help insurance fund to get an additional 28 billion euros (38. 61 billion U.S. dollars) to pay pensions.
The pension reform bill has already passed the lower house of parliament and will be presented to the upper house next Tuesday. Labor unions are planning another nationwide strike on Oct. 12 in a new move against the pension reforms.