Retirees protest across Spain to demand a pension hike

MADRID (AP) — Tens of thousands of elderly Spaniards rallied across the country Saturday to demand an increase in public pension payouts.

Unions and retiree groups called for protests in over 100 cities and towns across Spain to demand that pension payouts rise in line with inflation. Many pensioners complain that the government’s 0.25 percent increase in 2017 is insufficient.

Protestors braved rain and cold weather in Madrid to march behind a banner saying “Protect Pensions in the Constitution.”

Thousands also marched through Barcelona and most other major cities in Spain.

“The cost of life is going up and the pensions are only increasing by 0.25 percent. So the pension is not enough,” 70-year-old retired cook Antonia Marroqui said in Barcelona. “Before I paid 150 euros ($184) in electricity. Now I pay 200 ($246). So, it is not enough to get by until the end of the month.”

Experts have warned about the future of Spain’s pension system as the population ages, with fewer workers contributing to the national pension fund as the number of retirees rises.

This is the second wave of protests for better pensions in recent weeks in Spain, putting pressure on the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The government says 139 billion euros ($171 billion) , or 29 percent of total public spending, was paid last year in state pensions.

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