Workers and activists around the world are marking May Day with rallies, calling for higher salaries, reduced working hours and better working conditions.
May Day, or International Labour Day, falls on May 1 and is observed in many countries as a day to celebrate workers’ rights.
This year’s events had bigger turnouts than in previous years, as COVID-19 restrictions were drastically loosened and activists in many countries argued governments should do more to improve workers’ lives.
In South Korea, tens of thousands of people attended various rallies in its biggest May Day gatherings since the pandemic began in early 2020. The two main rallies in the capital, Seoul, were expected to draw about 30,000 people each, according to the organisers.
“The price of everything has increased except for our wages. Increase our minimum wages!” an activist at a Seoul rally shouted at the podium. “Reduce our working hours!”
Rally participants accused the conservative government of President Yoon Suk-yeol of clamping down on some unions in the name of reforming alleged irregularities.
In Tokyo, thousands of labour union members, opposition legislators and academics gathered at Yoyogi Park, demanding wage increases to offset the effect of rising costs as their lives are still recovering since the pandemic hit.
In Indonesia, rally-goers demanded the government repeal a job creation law they argue would benefit businesses at the expense of workers and the environment.
“Job Creation Law must be repealed for the sake of the improvement of working conditions,” said protester Sri Ajeng at one rally. “It’s only oriented to benefit employers, not workers.”
In Taiwan, thousands of workers took to the streets to protest against what they called the inadequacies of the self-ruled island’s labour policies, putting pressure on the governing party ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
In Lebanon, hundreds of Communist Party and trade syndicate members, as well as groups of migrant domestic workers, marched through the streets of downtown Beirut.
The country is in the throes of a crippling economic crisis and spiralling inflation, with some three-quarters of the population now living in poverty.
In France, unions held massive demonstrations on Monday to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s recent move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Organisers see the pension reform as a threat to hard-fought worker rights and France’s social safety net.
The pension bill unleashed France’s biggest protests in years, and the May 1 rallies are expected to be among the largest yet.
In Pakistan, authorities banned rallies in some cities over security concerns. In Peshawar, in the country’s northwest, labour organisations and trade unions held indoor events to demand better workers’ rights.
Similar rallies were also being held and planned later on Monday in several cities across India.