Analysts say the subsequent anxiety cuts across both private and public sectors, a speculation grows over the future of a continent struggling to stay competitive on a global scale.

Air-traffic controllers walked off the job across France as a four-day strike began on Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

Governments that took on higher debts to get through the financial crisis or did not prepare adequately for a downturn are now looking to cut costs.

Unions called the walkout in protest against plans to integrate European air-traffic control across six countries, which workers fear will lead to job losses.

Workers and unions say they are striking to protect the European social safety net from deteriorating and to keep austerity measures from sapping consumer demand and the economy.

With unemployment in the 16-nation Euro zone at 10 per cent, and Spain topping the unemployment rate at 19 per cent, concerns about job security are paramount.

Continent-wide protests

Concerns about pending government cutbacks and efficiency seeking extend beyond the air travel sector.

In Spain, thousands of people marched in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and other cities to condemn a government proposal to raise the retirement age by two years to 67 as part of an austerity package.

To the sound of banging drums, protesters in Madrid called on the government to drop the idea of making people delay their retirement.

Transportation labor unions in the Czech Republic decided on Tuesday to also hold a strike in the capital Prague next Monday in protest against a new value-added tax on their workers' benefits.