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International Labor Day: History and Significance

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Categories: Prelims, Published: 1st May, 2021

It has been said “ No Masterpiece has been created without great labor”

The significance of labor is immense in the economy of every country. They are like the veins of the economy that help running the economy . To commemorate the sacrifice and hard work  1st May is celebrated as the International Workers’ Day and Labour Day in different parts of the world every year. This day is also celebrated in the memory of various labor movements in history that fought for the rights of labor and sometimes sacrificed their lives for their existence.

The ongoing crisis created due to worldwide pandemic has once again made the labor helpless and devoid of livelihood because of closure of various industries and factories. Amid the looming uncertainty over the future of lacs of workers across the world Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) has appealed to everyone across the world, workers, employers, international organizations, governments, to join forces and commit to building a better world for the workers everywhere.

The theme of International Labour Day 2021 is yet to be announced. The 2020 theme was “Maintaining safety and security at the workplace”.


Importance of the Day:

On this day  International Labour Organisation (ILO), nations, employers and workers across the  world make a commitment regarding the better working atmosphere and fair conditions to all labors.

The Second International has declared 1st May as International Workers Day in the year 1889. This organization was created by Socialist and Labor Parties. International Socialist Congress on 1st May 1904 at Amsterdam demanded legal provision for 8 hour working day for labors.


Historical Development :

 Though the Labor Day is celebrated on 1st May every year across the world various countries celebrate this day on other days because of events and history associated with Labor Movements .

  • USA
  • The USA observes  Labor day on the first Monday of September, every year. The USA recognised the day as a federal holiday in 1894.
  • Canada also celebrates the Labour day on the same day as the US.
  • Labor day was designated as a day in support of workers by trade unions and socialist groups in the memory of the Haymarket affair of 1886 in Chicago, USA. Haymarket Affair was a peaceful rally in support of workers which led to a violent clash with the police, leading to severe casualties. Those who died were hailed as “Haymarket Martyrs”. Workers’ rights violations, straining work hours, poor working conditions, low wages and child labour were the issues highlighted in the protest.
  • Russia
  • The Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc nations started celebrating the Labor day after the Russian Revolution, 1917. New ideologies such as Marxism and Socialism inspired many socialist and communist groups and they attracted peasants and workers and made them an integral part of national movement. It became a national holiday during the Cold War.
  • India
  • In India, Labor day was first celebrated in 1923, after the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan initiated the celebrations and Comrade Singaravelar (Singaravelu Chettiar) continued the celebrations.
  • Comrade Singaravelar was one of the leaders of the Self Respect movement in the Madras Presidency and passed a resolution stating the government should allow everybody a national holiday on Labour Day.

It is our responsibility to make the labors and workers come out of the crisis created by the pandemic. The workers are the creator of our destiny and the sole key to the prosperity of the nation. In this chaos when multiple factories have been closed to avert any unforeseen circumstances, the workers are facing the worst time. Their families are starving and dying due to loss of livelihood. They are migrating to their hometown in large numbers. Cities are evacuating due to lockdown. Amid these conditions, it should be the responsibility of the concerned government to make them safer and provide them food and shelter.

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