Skip to main content Skip to footer

International Labour Day: Origins, history and significance

Do you know why 1st May is a bank holiday in so many countries around the world? It's because over 160 nations around the world globally unite on this day to celebrate International Labour Day or as it’s more commonly known as May Day. This day is a testament to the hard work and sacrifices made by workers and labourers. May Day is often associated with the labour movement and the rights of working people in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Join English Path on an interesting journey today to explore the history of the labour movement and learn about how this day came to be. Let's begin! 

What is International Labour Day?

International Labour Day is a special day celebrated around the world to honour and appreciate the hard work and contributions of all workers. This day reminds us of the valuable role that workers play in our society. It brings attention to important issues, such as better working conditions, fair wages, and shorter working hours, that are important for the well-being of workers. 

Origins of International Labour Day

The very first International Labour Day was celebrated on 1st May 1889. It all began in the late 19th century when 400,000 workers across the USA organised a peaceful strike in Chicago on 1st May 1886. They were protesting to demand an eight-hour workday. Unfortunately, the strike turned violent, and several unarmed workers were killed by the police.  

It came to be known as the Haymarket Affair and was a turning point in the struggle for workers' rights. It was also a catalyst for change, as socialist parties and trade unions in the USA rallied workers to peacefully protest for the eight-hour workday. This protest became a global symbol of workers' rights, and 1st May came to be known as International Labour Day or even International Workers' Day sometimes. The impact of these protests was seen when public workers in the USA finally secured eight-hour workdays as a legal right in 1892. It was a monumental victory for the labour movement. 

Importance of International Labour Day

International Labour Day is celebrated worldwide to recognise and appreciate the hard work and contribution of employees. It is also a way to remind everyone about the rights of the workers and fair treatment in the workplace. Unions around the world use May Day to raise awareness about the important issues they face in the workplace, demand fair wages and present ideas to improve the lives of workers. 

Even today, years after the historic struggle of workers in 1886, there is still inequality among workers across various industries and countries. That's why May Day 2024 is an important day for workers to raise their voices and demand better working conditions and fair wages. It is a way for them to remind everyone that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace. 

How can you celebrate May Day 2024?

Since International Worker's Day is a bank holiday in many countries, there are a lot of things you can do to celebrate and show your appreciation. Here are some ideas to make your May Day 2024 a special one: 

  • Thank a worker: May Day 2024 is the day to show appreciation to your colleagues, parents, friends or someone you know who works hard, like your teacher, nurse, or delivery person. 
  • Support a local business: This International Worker's Day, shop at your neighbourhood stores or eat at restaurants owned by local people in your community. 
  • Volunteer your time: You can help out at a soup kitchen or shelter or even with a non-profit organisation to give back to your community. 
  • Watch a Labour Day movie: Google films to search for one that celebrates workers or unions and watch it with your friends or family. 

May Day 2024 around the world

May Day, or International Worker's Day, is celebrated in diverse ways across the globe. From unique traditions to grand events, each country has its own way of showing appreciation for workers. Let's explore some of these fascinating celebrations: 

  • Public holiday: In many countries, 1st May is a day off work for everyone so that they can relax and celebrate. 
  • Parades and rallies: Workers' unions often organise marches to show solidarity and advocate for worker rights. 
  • Speeches and awards: Many organisations say a few words and organise award ceremonies for their outstanding employees to recognise their hard work and commitment. 
  • Labour movement: In some countries like the USA, unions use May Day to raise important issues and campaign for better working conditions. 

At English Path, we hold our employees in high regard and value their contributions towards the success of our organisation. As we celebrate this year's May Day, we want to remind everyone about the importance of acknowledging and appreciating the hard work of workers. We would love to hear from you about how you celebrate International Labour Day in your local community. Share your experiences or thoughts with us and let us celebrate the dedication and rights of workers everywhere! 

Frequently asked questions about International Labour Day

A1. On 1st May 1886, workers in Chicago went on strike to demand an 8-hour workday. Sadly, the strike ended tragically just a few days later. But that fateful day is now remembered as International Labour Day or May Day as a show of appreciation for the workers who fought bravely all those years ago. 

A2. International Labour Day is also known as May Day and International Worker's Day around the world. The name of the holiday varies depending on the country. For example, in the UK, it is commonly referred to as May Day, while in the USA, it is known as International Labor Day. In some other countries, it is known as International Workers' Day. 

A3. May Day, or International Labour Day, is celebrated worldwide to raise awareness, promote workers' rights, and prevent their exploitation in the workplace. 

A4. Workers, trade unions, organisations, and everyone who supports workers' rights and wants to ensure their rights are respected take part in the celebrations.

A5. You can celebrate May Day 2024 or International Labour Day by participating in local events, learning about workers' rights, and supporting fair working conditions. Show your appreciation to the people in your life who go to work, share posts about the importance of this day on social media or even support the local businesses in your community. Let us all come together to celebrate the hard work and dedication of workers worldwide.