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  • Costa Ricans celebrate International Workers' Day, known in Spanish as Dia Del Trabajador, or Workers' Day, May 1, 2005.

    Costa Ricans celebrate International Workers' Day, known in Spanish as Dia Del Trabajador, or Workers' Day, May 1, 2005. | Photo: EFE

Published 30 April 2015

Many people, especially in the U.S., do not know this international holiday originated there as May Day, but it is now celebrated as Labor Day.  

1. On May 1, 1886, workers took to the streets across the United States in a major struggle to reduce the worldwide 12-hour workday to today's eight-hours. This is said to be the first May Day ever celebrated. However, International Workers' Day came about after the Haymarket affair, organized to protest harassment and persecution against workers. The odd thing is how few people in the U.S. know about May Day; it was later decided the country would celebrate Labor Day every year on the first Monday of September. This day, of course, is celebrated in Canada as well.

2. Although there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers, some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." But many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, proposed the holiday in 1882, when he was serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

3. Hundreds of countries around the world have recognized International Workers' Day, although only about 60 actually celebrate the holiday.

4. The U.N.’s International Labor Organization has found that as the population of the world approaches 7 billion people, 3 billion are employed and about 240 million are unemployed.

5. According to the ILO, despite the 2008 crisis, the rate of unemployment has been between 5.8 percent and 5.9 percent as a worldwide average this century. This percentage is expected to remain the same through 2019. Even though this means that 61 million more people will be unemployed, some 220 million more jobs will have been created.

6. An estimated 30 million people suffer modern-day slavery conditions, generating some US$32 billion in profit yearly for those involved in human trafficking.

7. There are more than 200 million children working around the world today, with 120 million engaged in hazardous work. Seventy-three million of these children are under 10 years old.

8. International Workers' Day began in Chicago as a protest campaign in support of the eight-hour workday.

9. The World Bank projects that the estimated total work force in the world is around 3.4 billion, of which just over 2 billion are male, 1.4 billion are female and 560,000 are youth. By 2030, the World Bank projects that the total work force is predicted to increase to slightly more than 4 billion, with 2.4 billion male, 1.6 billion female, while the youth work force will have only grown by about 40,000, to just under 600,000.

10. According to one rough estimate, the world average wage probably lies around US$1,200 purchasing power parity per month, although in many countries this is completely untrue as workers rerceive salaries below US$100.

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