Tens of thousands of Italian workers have rallied in Rome to protest pension cuts, tax hikes and labour reforms imposed by the government of Mario Monti and to demand more stable work, particularly for the young.
The demonstration organised by Italy's main labour unions came a day after Monti's latest effort to stave off contagion from Europe's debt crisis. His Cabinet on Friday approved measures worth 80 billion euros($A101.44 billion) to spur economic growth, streamline the notoriously bloated public sector and lower the national debt.
In the seven months it has been in power, Monti's government of technocrats has pushed through painful pension cuts, labour reforms to make it easier to fire workers and tax increases that have cut into the pockets of ordinary Italians already coping with hard times and youth unemployment at a staggering 36 per cent.
On Saturday, Monti said the latest measures signalled the start of "phase two" of his government program, to spur growth for an economy already deep in recession. Just last week, official statistics confirmed the economy contracted by 0.8 per cent in the first quarter, the worst in three years.
At the colourful rally on Saturday full of union flags and balloons, older workers lamented that their pensions don't get them through the end of the month, particularly with new taxes on primary homes, and that their children have few work options.
"They are making the same people poorer, the retired people," said Emilio Scappini, a retired train conductor who said his daughter was earning a paltry 400 euros ($A507) a month. "But it's not just her, all the young people. And Monti hasn't understood this."
Many workers who protested on Saturday have been caught in a welfare limbo between work and retirement brought on by the government's pension reform.