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[PARIS] Several hundred business owners demonstratedin Paris on Monday to protest hefty taxes, charges and stifling regulations they say are driving their firms into the ground.
The rally was to head to the imposing finance ministry later in the day in a bid to attach padlocks symbolising frustration at decades of government policies derided as obstructive.
Called by the CGPME representing owners of small- and medium-sized businesses, the protest paralleled much bigger workers' demonstrations that more frequently occur in France and underlined a general sense of stagnation or decline in Europe's second-biggest economy.
"Taxes, levies, charges: enough is enough" read one of the banners held up in Monday's rally.
"Dear ministers: work 70 hours a week for peanuts - I can provide training for that" read another.
Eric Brule, the head of a regional federation representing small construction firms, said his members were demanding "simplification" of government rules in the sector.
France is struggling to lift itself out of a years-long rut of feeble growth and growing unemployment, while fending off persistent EU demands to reduce its budget deficit.
The government of President Francois Hollande has promised to cut payroll taxes if businesses take on new hires, but no turnaround has been seen, and the general economic context across the eurozone is gloomy.
Last week, the latest official data showed an annualised rise of 5.5 per cent in unemployment. Hollande, who is halfway through his five-year mandate, said last month he would not stand for re-election in 2017 if he did not come through on his campaign pledge to reduce joblessness.