Workers of the world unite: May Day across Asia
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Workers of the world unite: May Day across Asia

THOUSANDS of workers across Asia took to the streets of cities across the region on Tuesday to celebrate May Day, otherwise known as Labour Day or International Workers’ Day.

Marked each year by labour unions, socialist and communist organisations since 1904, the day commemorates the 1886 Haymarket affair in which many died in a bomb attack during protests calling for the eight-hour working day.

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Pakistan

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Activists from the various labour organizations hold flags and a sign, depicting Karl Marx, as they take part in a rally demanding improvements to working conditions, on the International Labour Day or May Day, in Karachi, Pakistan May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

While it has undergone major economic transformation in recent decades, Asia is now arguably the most unequal region on the planet. According to the Asian Development Bank, income inequality has worsened in Asia’s three most populous economies since the 1990s: China, India and Indonesia.

India

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People march with flags during a May Day demonstration organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other left wing parties in Bengaluru, India, May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

Sri Lanka

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A man looks on next to an image of Karl Marx during a May Day rally organized by Front Line Socialist Party in Colombo, Sri Lanka May 1,2018. Source: Reuters/ Dinuka Liyanawatte

Oxfam recently released a report documenting huge inequalities across the region: individual FTSE-100 CEOs earn as much in a year as 10,000 people in working in garment factories in Bangladesh; in Vietnam, the country’s richest man earns more in a day than the poorest person earns in 10 years.

Bangladesh

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Workers shout slogans as they participate in a May Day rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Philippines

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Protesters carry a effigy bearing a image of President Rodrigo Duterte while marching towards the Malacanang Presidential Palace during a May Day rally at Espana, metro Manila, Philippines May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

In the Philippines, some 5000 workers marched against controversial President Rodrigo Duterte for failing to fulfil his election promise of ending the widespread practice of insecure short-term employment contracts.

Indonesia

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Workers push police officers to brake the barricade during a Mayday rally at business district in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Beawiharta

In Bogor, West Java, some 4000 workers prayed for raising the minimum wage in Indonesia’s most populous province, reported The Jakarta Post.

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Workers participate in a Mayday rally in Jakarta, Indonesia May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Darren Whiteside

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Taiwan

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Protesters take part in a Labour Day protest to voice dissatisfaction with their government’s labour policies, in Taipei, Taiwan May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

“Despite the region’s rapid growth, the past two decades have witnessed a rising gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’,” said an ADB report from 2014.

Cambodia

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Workers gather as they rally to mark May Day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Samrang Pring

“The social and political consequences of an Asia left to divide itself by wealth can no longer be ignored. It is time for governments in Asia to focus on policies that share the benefits of development fairly and that maintain healthy growth rates.”

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Workers hold Cambodian flags and signs as they rally to mark May Day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 1, 2018. Source: Reuters/Samrang Pring

North Korea

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People attend an event to mark International Workers’ Day in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on May 1, 2018. Source: KCNA/via Reuters

In North Korea, the repressive one-party communist state, May Day celebrations were somewhat different to elsewhere in the region.

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Source: KCNA/via Reuters