© Reuters / Philippe Wojazer
French President Emmanuel Macron has offered another 5 billion euros worth of tax cuts and government reforms as a way to appease Yellow Vest protesters but insists the French must "work more" in turn.

In the first major press conference of his presidency, lasting for over two hours, the 41-year-old Macron said he wanted to implement "significant" income tax cuts amounting to €5 billion ($5.56 billion) or so, but that government spending would have to be cut and the French would have to put in longer work hours.

"We must work more, I've said it before. France works much less than its neighbors. We need to have a real debate on this," Macron said.

The proposed tax cut would be funded by cracking down on tax evasion and closing corporate loopholes, Macron said. He also floated the idea of making it easier to put some issues to a referendum, decentralize some government decisions, and even reform the French parliament.

Macron's measures are aimed at placating the Yellow Vests (gillets jaunes), which started out as a protest against a gas tax last year. They have gathered for 23 Saturdays in a row as of this week, and attempts by police to disperse them have frequently turned violent.

Macron has already offered them €10 billion ($11.1bn) in tax cuts and income subsidies for the working poor and pensioners, back in December, to no avail.

An investment banker who defeated both the establishment parties and the nationalist opposition in 2017, Macron is struggling with a 30 percent approval rating and the perception that he is "elitist." He remained committed to his agenda at Thursday's press conference, however.

"I asked myself: Should we stop everything that was done over the past two years? Did we take a wrong turn? I believe quite the opposite," Macron said.