As labor groups take to the streets around the world to protest high unemployment and harsh austerity measures, who has the most to complain about?
Recognized as a national holiday by more than 80 countries, May 1, or May Day, has become firmly identified with International Workers' Day. The event originally commemorated the bloody 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when police opened fire on demonstrating workers, killing dozens. Over the years it has become a day for labor unions to rally around the globe. This year, with unemployment soaring and governments cutting back to reign in budgets, we take a tour of the protests.
Unemployment rates have skyrocketed in Spain, with youth unemployment -- joblessness among people 16 to 24 -- passing 50 percent this year. Austerity measures by the right-leaning government have increasingly come under fire from labor unions, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faces a difficult defense of his harsh austerity measures after the announcement that Spain's economy actually shrank 0.4 percent during the first quarter of 2012, officially putting the country back in a recession.
Here, demonstrators join a protest against the economic policies of the Spanish government during May Day festivities in Madrid.
Greece is also suffering from massive unemployment rates, especially among young people. As of April 2012, 21.8 percent of all Greeks -- one in five -- were unemployed, and among those under 25, the number was a whopping 50.8 percent.
Here, a protester shouts slogans during a demonstration in central Athens to mark May Day.
Above, Tunisians protest outside the headquarters of the Union of Tunisian Workers during the May Day rally in Tunis. Tens of thousands of Tunisians marched for national unity, chanting slogans borrowed from the popular uprising that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali more than a year ago. Since the revolution, unemployment has continued to be one of the most pressing issues facing the nation -- in some parts of the country, joblessness approaches 50 percent. On Monday, two young people attempted suicide outside of the jobs ministry to protest the government's inability to correct the unemployment rates.
Turkey, long denied entry into the European Union, may now be having the last laugh. In stark contrast to many of its neighbors on the continent, the country saw unemployment drop in 2011 and 2012 is off to a good start. In January, unemployment was down 1.7 points over last year, with the rate hovering around 10.2 percent.
Above, protesters sit with red flags during a May Day rally in central Istanbul. Tens of thousands of workers gathered in the heart of Turkey's biggest city, Istanbul, to mark the event.
A demonstrator waves the flag of the French Front de Gauche, a leftist party, during a march as part of the annual May Day workers' events in Marseille. Although the final round of presidential elections is coming up on May 6, neither candidate -- Socialist Francois Hollande or current center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy -- have campaigned on reforming labor laws.
While unemployment in France stands at about 10 percent, the country has "lost more industrial jobs than any European country over the last decade," reports Bloomberg, a fact the news agency attributes to arcane hiring regulations, and could lose more as struggling economies throughout Europe attempt to woo companies with flexible labor laws.
Indonesia is seen as an economic success story, touting more than 6 percent growth in 2011. However, everyone rising tide hasn't lifted all boats -- the unemployment rate is estimated to be as high as 30 percent, and even those with jobs complain of poor wages. Indonesian factory workers make an average of $100-$200 per month, less than in China or India.
Above, Indonesian workers march toward the presidential palace during the May Day protests in Jakarta. Thousands of Indonesian workers held a peaceful rally the Indonesian capital demanding better pay and a halt to outsourcing to contractors.
In Manila, militants and labor union members gather around a burning the effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino on May 1 as part of the May Day protests demanding higher wages and policies that would make it harder to fire workers. Aquino announced a benefits package on Tuesday that included educational assistance and an advance in government salary raises. Critics, however, said the package did not go far enough to address their concerns. Aquino has said he is trying to help labor but has argued that giving too many benefits will make the country less competitive, costing more jobs.
Compared with some of its European neighbors, Britain's economy has remained fairly stable, though it officially entered a recession in the first quarter of 2012. Factories and manufacturing have been particularly hard hit, and the government has responded by implementing austerity measures, including cutting funding for roads, pensioners, and charities.
Although Britain's unemployment rates have been better than forecasted, concerned citizens have still taken to the streets. Above, an anti-capitalist protester from the "Occupy" movement holds a banner in front of police officers during a demonstration on May 1 in London. Students, trade unionists, pensioners, and activists movement marched through the center of London before congregating and staging a demonstration in Trafalgar Square to mark May Day.
After last spring's pro-democracy uprisings, Bahrain's economic growth dramatically slowed to 2.2 percent. Two of Bahrain's key economic sectors -- tourism and banking -- have suffered in the aftermath. According to the IMF, high oil prices have helped insulate Bahrain somewhat from the worst of the economic woes felt elsewhere. But it will be difficult to get the economy back on track in a country that is still grappling with social unrest. Above, a Bahraini Shiite employee who was allegedly dismissed from his job for participating in pro-democracy protests holds a banner during a demonstration in the village of Muqsha'a on April 30. Many Shiite employees have either been dismissed or indefinitely suspended from their jobs during the crackdown.
Although there's been much concern over U.S. unemployment becoming structural, U.S. stocks hit their highest point since 2007 on May 1, and many economic forecasters see signs of a turnaround. Manufacturing numbers have cautiously improved, and imports, a good indicator of an economy's health, are rising. Still, unemployment and wealth disparity continues to be a rallying point for protesters. Above, Occupy Wall Street protesters picket during a May Day rally in front of the Bank of America building in New York City.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced Malaysia's first minimum-wage plan for the private sector last month after a mass protest in Kuala Lumpur to demand fair elections. But rather than end the unrest, the new rules have stirred up more controversy. Business owners are worried about the effect on their bottom line, and opposition parties say the regulations don't go far enough. Above, workers march on a street during a May Day rally in Kuala Lumpur to protest what they say are shortcomings in the new rules.
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