FURIOUS riots erupted in France after Emmanuel Macron bypassed parliament to push through an unpopular rise to the retirement age.

Cops deployed tear gas and water cannon as protesters started fires and threatened the president's home in chaotic scenes.

French leader Macron sparked outrage on Thursday after using an emergency presidential decree to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 as he faced losing a key ballot at the National Assembly.

Thousands took to the streets in Paris and other cities, as they targeted buildings and fought with police.

Shocking pictures show thick plumes of smoke rising from raging infernos and debris strewn across roads.

One witness said: "A group of rioters got away from the police and started marching towards the Elysee Palace.

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"They wanted to get to Macron, to tell him what they think of his new measures."

Cops fired rounds of tear gas in a bid to keep crowds back.

The worst of the trouble was around the nearby Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris, which is just across the River Seine from the National Assembly.

Thousands of riot police moved to clear it at around 8.30pm, prompting the protesters to disappear down side streets.

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More than 300 people were arrested, according to local media.

Even after the rally was dispersed, some protesters created fires and caused damage to shop fronts in side streets, AFP reporters said.

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Earlier in the day, a massive crowd gathered in front of the parliament in the historic Place de la Concorde in central Paris, watched over by cops as Macron rammed the controversial pension reform through partialment.

Schoolteacher Laure Cartelier said: "I'm outraged by what's happening. I feel like I'm being cheated as a citizen.

"In a democracy, it should have happened through a vote."

Macron’s pension reform

EMMANUEL Macron pushed his controversial pension reform through parliament without a vote.

The French president used a special constitutional power that enabled the government to pass legislation without a vote to hike the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Macron used the special power as he faced losing a ballot to get the reform through.

The pension reforms have sparked weeks of strikes and protests in the country.

As well as raising the retirement age by two years, it also requires an extra year of contributions to the national pension scheme.

Several stores were looted during protests in the southern city of Marseille while clashes between protesters and security forces also erupted in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes as well as Lyon in the southeast.

Trade unions and political analysts had warned that adopting the legislation without a vote — by invoking article 49.3 of the constitution — risked radicalising opponents and would undercut the law's democratic legitimacy.

"It's a total failure for the government," far-right leader Marine Le Pen told reporters.

"From the beginning the government fooled itself into thinking it had a majority."

According to polls two-thirds of French people oppose the pension overhaul.

"When a president has no majority in the country, no majority in the National Assembly, he must withdraw his bill," added Socialist Party chief Olivier Faure.

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Despite the day of high drama, Macron made no public comment on the matter Thursday.

"You cannot play with the future of the country," he told a closed-door cabinet meeting Thursday morning as he justified the move, according to a participant.

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