International Labour Day 2021: History, Significance, and Theme

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Each year, May 1 is celebrated as International Labour Day, also known as May Day, International Workers’ Day, or as Labour Day across the world. This day is observed to celebrate the labour community around the globe and commemorate their contributions and the historic 1886 Haymarket riots.

On this day amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) asks everyone across the world, workers, employers, international organizations, governments, to join forces and commit to building a better world for the workers everywhere.

History and Significance of International Labour Day

The origin of the International Labour Day traces back to the labour union movement in the US during the 19th century.

Earlier, workers were forced to work for 15 hours a day. On May 1, 1886, there was a strike in Chicago, called as the Haymarket riots, for adopting an 8-hours workday. A bomb was hurled during the strike which led to the police opening fire on the protestors. Hundreds of labours, civilians, police officers died.

In 1889, the Marxist International Socialist Congress called for a meeting in Paris to adopt a resolution that the workers should not be forced to work more than 8 hours a day. Following the adoption of this resolution, May 1 came to be celebrated as International Labour Day to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket riots.

The International Labour Day was celebrated for the first time in Madras (now Chennai), India on May 1, 1923, by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan. This was also the day when India was used a red flag.

Why is International Labour Day celebrated?

International Labour Day is celebrated to recall the historic sacrifice and struggle of the people to bring equity and justice to the working conditions of the people across the globe.

This day calls us all to celebrate the labour community and help in generating better job opportunities, improve working conditions, offer social protection, and protect the rights of workers.

The theme of International Labour Day 2021

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



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