Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated across Spain against new austerity measures targeting education and health care spending.

The protesters carried banners reading "It's a Crime to Cut Health Care" and "People of Europe, Rise Up." One simply read "No."

Many banners bore a drawing of a pair of scissors symbolising the cuts.

The Spanish government on 20 April approved reforms to scrap free medicine for pensioners and charge students higher fees, aiming to save an extra €10 billion a year.

Spain's two biggest unions, the CCOO and the UGT, said Spaniards marched in 55 cities.

Unions put the turnout in a rainy Madrid at 40,000.

In Andalusia, Spain's biggest southern region, unions counted 30,000 protesters while police said there were 11,500.

In Valencia, between 15,000 and 40,000 people assembled, said unions.

In Barcelona, police said 700 demonstrators had gathered, while unions gave a figure of 4,000.

Nevertheless, the overall turnout was small compared with other demonstrations that have hit Spain in recent months, including on 29 March when hundreds of thousands took to the streets.

Unions have called a new demonstration on Tuesday, Labour Day.

"The government think that people will forget. But we are not going to forget the cuts, we will be there every day until they have been remedied," said UGT secretary general Candido Mendez.

Madrid has promised to slash its public deficit to 5.3% of gross domestic product in 2012 from 8.5% last year.

Spain's jobless rate hit 24% in the first quarter of this year, with 5.64 million people out of work, its highest level since 1996.