International Workers’ Day - History, Significance, Theme

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 1, 2023, 7:38

International Workers’ Day celebrates the accomplishments of workers on May 1 every year. This day also pays tribute to those who died in the historic 1886 Haymarket riots while protesting for the eight-hour workday movement. International Workers’ Day is also called Labour Day and May Day in some countries.

Workers around the world participate in protests and rallies on May Day to demand better working conditions. In this article, we have shared further information about International Workers’ Day, its theme, history and significance.

Workers Day 2023

May 1 is celebrated as International Workers’ Day in around 80 countries of the world. The International Labour Organization (ILO) calls on everyone in the world, including workers, employers, international organisations, and governments, to celebrate this day. Workers Day is about committing to making the world a better place for all workers.

This day is a reminder to all workers that they should be proud of their contribution to society and must be aware of their rights. Find out more about International World Labour Day by going through the overview shared below.


International Workers’ Day


May 1 (annually)

Also Known As

May Day, Labour Day


To commemorate the 1886 Haymarket riots and honor the accomplishments of workers around the world

International Workers Day 2023 Theme

The theme for International Labour Day 2023 is yet to be announced. Usually, the theme for the day differs from country to country. However, the Workers Day theme revolves around demanding better working conditions for all workers.

The International Workers’ Day theme 2020 was "maintaining safety and security at the workplace." It aimed to send the message of prioritizing worker health and security at the workplace. Workers Day pays tribute to all workers who contribute so much to society.

Why Do We Celebrate International Workers’ Day?

International Labour Day is observed to commemorate people's historic sacrifices and struggles to bring equity and justice to people's working conditions worldwide.

  • Workers Day encourages us to honour employees everywhere by helping to create better job possibilities, improving working conditions, providing social support, and preserving workers' rights.
  • Even today, workers are mistreated and remain underpaid in many parts of the world. International Workers’ Day gathers support for all workers and gives them a chance to demand better.
  • In India, May Day was observed for the first time on May 1, 1923, in Chennai, which was then called Madras.

Workers Day - History

The origins of International Workers’ Day can be traced back to the 19th-century labour movement in the United States. Here are some details about the same.

  • Workers were once required to work for 15 hours every day before the establishment of Workers Day.
  • The Haymarket riots, which took place on 1st May 1886, were a strike in Chicago in support of an 8-hour workweek.
  • During the strike, a bomb was thrown, prompting police to open fire on the protestors. Hundreds of people were killed, including labourers, citizens, and police officers.
  • The Marxist International Socialist Congress convened a conference in Paris in 1889 to draft a resolution prohibiting employees from working more than 8 hours per day.
  • To commemorate the 1886 Haymarket riots, May 1 became known as World Labour Day after the resolution was passed.

International Workers Day - Russian Revolution

The Second Communist International, founded by socialist and labour parties in 1889, declared that May 1 would be observed as International Workers' Day from that point forward.

  • After years of demonstrations and riots, the United States finally recognised eight-hour workdays in 1916.
  • In 1904, the International Socialist Congress in Amsterdam called for a large-scale demonstration on May Day to demand the legalisation of the eight-hour workday.
  • During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries adopted the commemoration after the 1917 Russian Revolution, with several of them declaring it a national holiday.
  • The commemoration of Workers Day included parades held in Moscow's Red Square, featured prominent Communist leaders and highlighted Soviet military strength.

May Day India

International Workers’ Day was first observed in India on May 1, 1923, when the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan organised the celebrations led by Comrade Singaravelar (Singaravelu Chettiar).

  • Chettiar was recognised for being one of the leaders of the Madras Presidency's Self-Respect Movement and for fighting for the rights of the backward classes.
  • Chettiar passed a resolution at one of his meetings suggesting that the government offer everyone a national holiday on World Labor Day.
  • The Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan observed Workers Day for the first time in India on 1st May 1923, in Madras (now Chennai). This was also the first time India flew a crimson flag.

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FAQs on International Workers’ Day

Q1. When do we celebrate International Workers’ Day?

International Workers’ Day is celebrated on May 1 every year. This day commemorates the 1886 Haymarket riots in Chicago, US. Workers Day is about celebrating the achievements of workers around the world in establishing an eight-day work hour.

Q2. What is the theme of International Workers’ Day 2023?

International Workers’ Day 2023 theme has not been announced yet. Every year, a new theme is announced for the celebrations of Labour Day. Last year, the theme for International Worker Day was "maintain safety and security at the workplace."

Q3. Why do we celebrate International Workers’ Day?

International Workers’ Day commemorates the Haymarket riots, the day when many protesting workers lost their lives due to a bomb set up in Chicago, US. Workers Day also honors workers around the world who established the eight-hour workday.

Q4. What is the history of International Workers’ Day?

The history of International Workers’ Day traces back to 1886 in Chicago, US, when people protested for an eight-hour workday. After years of demonstrations and riots, the United States finally recognised eight-hour workdays in 1916 and May 1 was declared as May Day.