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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 20:47 GMT
Germans protest over welfare cuts
Berlin protesters
Protesters say Germany's welfare state is under attack
About 100,000 people have marched through Berlin protesting against the German Government's far-reaching reforms to the welfare system.

Marchers held placards denouncing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as a "thief" over cuts to unemployment benefit and a freeze on pensions.

A coalition of trade unions, lobby groups and the reformed East German Communist Party (PDS) took part.

Mr Schroeder also faces intense pressure from the right-wing CDU party.


According to opionion polls, the CDU has more than 50% support, compared with less than 25% for Mr Schroeder's Social Democrats - their worst rating in 25 years.

The marchers - from all over Germany - were angry at what they saw as a betrayal by a Social Democratic-led government, the BBC's Ray Furlong reports from Berlin.

The public services union Verdi and anti-globalisation group Attac were among those taking part.

The government's recent announcement of a freeze on pensions next year has fuelled concerns that Germany's welfare state is being dismantled.

The freeze is designed to help the government deal with a substantial shortfall in state pension funds.

The shortfall has been caused by an ever-ageing population and fewer contributions to the fund due to high unemployment.

The reforms are also aimed at encouraging patients to pay more of their own medical costs.

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