Labour (Labor) Day, also celebrated across the world as May Day, is observed on May 1st every year. The festival is celebrated as a national holiday in about 80 countries in the world, to honor and commemorate the contribution of all employed men and women. Often employers host a special function or give out special bonuses to employees who have worked especially hard, been loyal and respectable, and helped the organization perform better in the market!
May Day history can be traced back to the United States of America, though it has now become quite popular in many parts of the world.
Why is Labour Day important?
For starters, this holiday gives power and a voice to the working class, who often get exploited by their employers. Earlier, industrialists would often take advantage of the labour class by making them work for up to 15 hours a day.
Finally, the union united to raise their voice on May Day (the first day of the month), against the unfair treatment of their employers, and thereby demanded paid leaves, proper wages and breaks for the workforce.
This movement has also been called as the eight-hour day movement, representing a person’s right to eight hours of work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.
While May Day/ Labour Day was first celebrated on 1st May, in 1886, when labour unions in the United States of America decided to go on strike, the importance of this holiday reached the people of India in 1923. The first celebration was organized in Chennai (then Madras) by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan.
Apart from being celebrated as Labour Day, May 1st is also celebrated as 'Maharashtra Day' and 'Gujarat Day' to commemorate the day in 1960, when the two western states attained statehood after the erstwhile Bombay state was divided into linguistic lines.
Celebrations of May Day in India also helps to remind the people how far along we have come from where we started. This is especially promoted by the fact that child labour in India is prohibited under the Child Labour Act of 1986, which bars employing children below the age of 14 years. While this act was directed towards achieving better labour standards and ensuring no abuse or maltreatment of children by industries and industrialists, it has also had many social and psychological implications, giving back childhood to young children.
Since India’s working population is a significant contributor to the country’s economy, Labour Day has been gaining much recognition throughout the country. The last survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in the financial year 2011-12, showed India’s total workforce to be 47.41 crores. Out of this 33.69 crore were rural workers (largely comprising of agricultural workers) and 13.72 crores were urban workers. This is a reminder for the Indians, how much significance the agricultural sector continues to have on our country’s economy, and hence, our growth.
Labour welfare has become a very important topic in India, requiring much attention from those holding power of authority. Despite the recognition the employees get for their hard work, the benefits still do not reach all workers in the economy. Those working in the informal sector are not privy to decent wages, social security, and often, even paid leave from work.
Not only can celebrating Labour Day increase the performance of the employees by boosting morale and motivating them, but it can also have a positive impact on the organization as a whole! Thus, the holiday should be acknowledged and celebrated by employers, in any way, regardless of how big or small their organization may be. The underlying fact behind the movement is that workers get appreciated for all their hard work and efficiency.
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