It is not uncommon that every now and then there is a story about human rights violations of workers in some part of the world, which is why we at Insider Monkey, recognizing the gravity of the issue, decided to draft the list of 11 countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world.
The human rights violations of workers perfectly illustrate social class differences generated by capitalism, where those who are at the bottom of the social pyramid are subjected to abuse and dehumanization. More often than not the stories of workers’ human rights abuses remain untold, which testifies even more to the marginalization experienced by workers. I guess it is the very silence on the issue that speaks the loudest. Not that long ago, the story of unpaid Zara workers went viral. It was yet another controversy associated with the retailer. Zara clothing that was on sale had hidden notes in it, which discussed unsafe working conditions, unfair working hours and unfair pay. One of the items read, “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.” While the majority of us, myself included, go shopping without putting much thought into how the actual product got to the shelves of stores, this story definitely calls for thinking. In such context, consumerism becomes subject to moral debate. The very act of sharing the story of what happened to the workers of Zara on social networks is a small step towards solving the problem. The next step would be boycotting their products. While it might appear insignificant, it is astounding what an army of strong-willed people can accomplish. Raise awareness and take action!
When writing about countries with the lowest unemployment rates in the world in 2017, I illustrated what it is like living in countries where getting a job is as easy as getting up in the morning. It takes some effort, but it is certainly not that difficult. These countries have strong economies that are always in demand for workers. Some of them have also made it to the list of countries with the highest minimum wage in the world in 2017. These countries obviously make it their priority to ensure the best working conditions for their workers. At the other end of the spectrum, there are countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world which I will focus on in this article.
When discussing countries with the worst labor laws, we should definitely turn to reports published by the International Trade Union Confederation, which is also known as the ITUC ranking. It is based on the ITUC Global Rights Index. There are five groups of rankings: 1st group implies not regular violations of rights, 2nd group indicates repeated violations of rights, 3rd group encompasses countries where there are regular violations of rights, 4th group points to countries with systematic violations of rights, 5th group involves countries where there is no guarantee of rights and 5+ group are countries where there is no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the rule of law. Each of their reports elaborates on working conditions by country, offering an insight into the best countries for workers and the worst countries for workers. A special section in 2017 ITUC report provides an overview of what countries have the worst working conditions. Qatar, Egypt, Colombia, Republic of Korea, and Bangladesh are some of the countries that are considered to be the worst for workers in 2017. According to the same report, the Middle East and especially the North Africa is the world’s worst region when it comes to workers’ rights – its ranking in 2017 (4.53) is even worse than in 2016 (4.26). Countries with poor working conditions in this region, as the report indicates, “are beset with conflict and a breakdown of the rule of law so that no guarantee of fundamental labour rights is possible.” On the other hand, countries with the best labor laws are all located in Europe, which is the leading region when it comes to workers’ rights. Speaking of poor working conditions, it is important to mention some of the companies which are known for the maltreatment they subject their workers to. According to the article published by money inc, top 5 worst working conditions companies are Tyson Foods, Apple, Sears, Walmart, and Family Dollar. You better avoid these if you are looking for a job.
When drafting the list of top 11 countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world, I referred to the data contained in ITUC reports. I have taken into account the reports published in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013 and combined results from these surveys. That is five years worth of data with regards to the respect, or lack of workers’ rights, which allowed me to list 11 countries with the worst working conditions.
11. The Republic of Korea
In 2017 ITUC report, South Korea is grouped among top 10 countries which are the worst for workers. South Korea’s strong economy is led by big business conglomerates. As the report states, in 2016 the Asia Monitor Resource Center leaked a PowerPoint Presentation by Samsung intended only for corporate bosses which outlined Samsung’s non-union policy and measures to deal with “dominant” employees.
According to ITUC reports, there are no guarantees of workers’ rights in Bangladesh. Trade unionists in Bangladesh have no rights whatsoever. The government is quick to punish those who advocate for workers’ rights through strikes. In 2013, the police used water cannons and rubber bullets to prevent protesters from asking an increase in minimum wage.
In 2015 ITUC report Swaziland was considered to be one of the countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world. As noted, trade unions were banned. Those protesting for better protection of workers’ rights are often intimidated by heavily armed police. Furthermore, in 2014 two medical workers were arrested for organizing a strike.
As suggested by ITUC, Turkey is ranked in group 5, meaning that no rights are guaranteed to workers. The report notes that the number of attacks on workers has increased since 2015. While there were protests organized by trade unions, these were marked by violence. Discrimination is very much present in private sector.
Egypt has been ranked among top 10 countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world in several reports by ITUC. 2015 report notes that the key problems in Egypt are police brutality, mass arrests, and abductions. Moreover, workers face serious repercussions in case they do decide to raise their voices.
Belarus guarantees no rights to workers. According to 2016 ITUC report, the rule of Alexander Lukashenko makes it difficult for citizens of Belarus to realize their fundamental rights. Civil and political rights are seriously infringed upon. Independent labor unions are banned. The key problems, as recognized by ITUC are discrimination, forced labor, and repression of protests.
China has no legal provisions which would guarantee the respect for and fulfillment of workers’ rights. In case workers do decide to raise their voices, they are met with discrimination by employers and police brutality. 2015 ITUC report notes that other key issues are precarious work and lack of due process. There were more than 2700 workers’ strikes advocating basic labor rights in 2015.
4. The United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates was grouped among top 10 countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world in both ITUC 2016 and 2017 report. As the reports indicate, more than 90 % of the workforce are migrant workers. They are denied the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The reports also note that there is a serious lack of access to justice and the lack of protection for victims.
Qatar made it to the top 10 countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world for three consecutive years. ITUC notes that the key issues in Qatar are the exclusion of migrant workers from labor law and forced labor. The kafala system, used to monitor migrant workers, persists in Qatar despite the external pressure. According to the 2017 report, more than 2 million migrant workers are denied their rights.
There are no laws in Colombia which would guarantee workers’ rights. The key problems 2015 report identifies are murders, lack of possibility for collective bargaining and discrimination. ITUC notes that trade unionists have been murdered for decades. Only in 2015, 20 cases of murders of trade unionists were recorded, which is the highest number in any country. The possibility of collective bargaining is seriously undermined because of the collective pacts.
Guatemala tops our list of 11 countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world. Guatemala is among countries which have no legal provisions concerning workers’ rights. As ITUC notes, the key problems in Guatemala are armed attacks, murders and the lack of due process. 2016 reports refer to the organizations such as the International Labor Organization and the United Nations which have recorded that there are extremely serious and systematic violations of workers’ rights in Guatemala. Apart from the fact that workers enjoy no protection by the government whatsoever, serious cases of violence against them are not dealt with accordingly by the judicial system.
This was Insider Monkey’s list of 11 countries with the worst labor laws, working conditions in the world.