In pictures: May Day marches

Workers of the world unite on international labour day to call for better, fairer and safer employment conditions.

Activists have marked international workers' day around the world with marches demanding more jobs, better working conditions and higher wages.

In South Korea, police said 50,000 people took part in a May Day rally in the capital, Seoul, on Sunday for better labour protections.

They also urged the government to contain rising inflation, a growing concern across much of Asia, where food and oil prices have been spiking and threatening to push millions into poverty.

Thousands of workers also marched in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines to vent their anger over the rising cost of living and growing disparities between the rich and poor.

Chinese holidaymakers flocked to Beijing's Tiananmen Square to watch the daily flag-raising ceremony.

In the Philippines, about 3,000 workers demanding higher wages held a protest in a Manila square that included setting alight the effigy of Benigno Aquino III, the Philippine president, grinning in a luxury car.

Aquino was criticised this year for buying a secondhand Porsche in a country where a third of people live on a dollar a day.

In Taiwan, about 2,000 people rallied in Taipei to protest the widening income gap and to demand their government create better work conditions.

About 3,000 people in Hong Kong took part in a Sunday morning protest while another 5,000 were expected at an afternoon rally, local media reports said, citing union organisers.

About 200,000 workers gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square in the largest May Day rally in the Turkish city since 1977, when 34 people after shooting triggered a stampede. Turkish unions were not allowed back until last year.

From Spain to Moscow

In Spain, where the unemployment has reached a euro zone high of 21.3 per cent, several thousand people gathered in the eastern port city of Valencia and condemned the government's failure to create new jobs.

In Moscow, up to 5,000 Communists and members of other leftist groups marched through the city carrying a sea of red flags to celebrate their traditional holiday, what in Soviet times was known as the Day of International Solidarity of Workers.

Since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the holiday has been known as the Day of Spring and Labour, and organisations from across the political spectrum held their own marches on Sunday.

The dominant pro-Kremlin party, United Russia, gathered the largest crowd by pulling in workers from factories and institutes in and around Moscow. Party organisers claimed that 25,000 people took part.

The holiday also brought out about 30 members of the Syrian diaspora to protest against their government's use of military force against protesters calling for an end to Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist leader whose party is the only nominally opposition faction in the Kremlin-loyal parliament, called for national solidarity.

A handful of gay activists tried to join the Communist march, but organisers and police insisted they roll up their flags to avoid conflict.