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Why We Celebrate International Workers’ Day on 1 May, Its History and Significance.

Updated: May 19, 2022

Workers’ holiday recognised in over 80 countries worldwide

Once a year, in May, almost all employees look forward to a special holiday commemorating their significance. Labour Day, now known as International Workers' Day, is a day that celebrates workers and their contribution to their workplace, economy and the nation. Labour Day celebrations can range from small events in companies to large scale national programs and parades.

History of Labour Day

There are many references as to how Labour Day came about. In Europe, it is said that Labour Day was born when the first international congress of socialist parties proclaimed May 1st be dedicated as the “Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity.” Their first celebrations focused on workers was held on May 1st, 1890.

In the US, the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1884 demanded an eight-hour workday, to come in effect as of May 1st 1886. To ensure that their demands were met, workers went on a general strike in Haymarket, Chicago in 1886. Someone threw a bomb on the fourth day of the strike and police fired on protestors, and this turn of events led to the culmination of the official sanction of the eight-hour workday. May Day was then born.

Where is it recognised?

More than 80 countries around the world recognise Labour Day with a public holiday. Although not all countries observe the holiday on May 1st, it is nevertheless commemorated to acknowledge the labour movement. In the UK and Ireland, for example, May Day is celebrated on the first Monday in the month of May. It is recognised as a bank holiday there. In the US, Labour Day is observed on the first Monday of September. It is also marked as the end of the summer vacation and schools reopen a day after Labour Day.

Over in New Zealand, Labour Day is a public holiday held on the fourth Monday in October. Its origins trace back to the eight-hour working day movement, when a carpenter refused to work for more than eight hours a day.

In Australia, the public holiday for Labour Day varies between states and territories. in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and South Australia, it is observed on the first Monday in October. In Victoria and Tasmania, it is the second Monday in March while in Western Australia, it is the first Monday in March. In Queensland and the Northern Territory, it falls on the first Monday in May while in Christmas Island, it is the fourth Monday of March.

Over in Japan, the country recognises their workers’ contribution on 23 November, citing the day as Labour Thanksgiving Day. However, many trade unions in Japan celebrate Labour Day on May 1st, by holding large rallies and marches in the major towns of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.

In Hong Kong, Labour Day on May 1st is recognised as a statutory holiday. Similarly, in Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore, May 1st is a public holiday. JustLogin cloud-based HRMS system is able to help you include this statutory holiday to ease payroll calculation and leave management. Don’t miss your chance to grab on our free trial. Log on to to find out more.

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