This map shows the results of the ITUC's inaugural Global Rights Index. Countries in bright yellow scored best, while countries in red scored worst. Canada, here coloured mild orange, came right in the middle. (Photo: ITUC)
This week, the International Trade Union Confederation released the results of its inaugural Global Rights Index, a comprehensive ranking of where it's good and not-so-good to be in the labour force around the world.
The ITUC is a confederation of national trade union centres, representing workers across the globe (there are currently 325 affiliated organizations totalling a membership of about 176 million people). The Rights Index is the first time the ITUC has attempted to rank countries based on workers' rights. The survey used 97 different indicators — including things like the ability to join unions, win collective bargaining rights, and have access to legal protection and due process — to definitively rank countries on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the best, 5 being the worst).
Overall, Canada came in at a solid 3 — neither the best nor the worst. What's mainly surprising is the other countries counted in that same bracket: Australia and the United Kingdom, sure, but also Brazil, Ethiopia, Georgia, the Republic of Congo, Uganda and Venezuela.
In this group, labour rights are enshrined in law and ostensibly guaranteed, but, according to the ITUC, "the government and/or companies are regularly interfering in collective labour rights [and] there are deficiencies in laws and/or certain practices which make frequent violations possible."
Countries that scored top marks include Uruguay, Togo, Sweden, South Africa, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Italy, among others. At the bottom, there are countries where workers have few to no rights and poor labour standards, including Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Greece. Below that, with scores less than 5, is a group of countries where conflict makes it nearly impossible to work, let alone work fairly; this includes places like Ukraine, Syria, South Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Central African Republic, and others.
"Countries such as Denmark and Uruguay led the way through their strong labour laws, but perhaps surprisingly, the likes of Greece, the United States and Hong Kong, lagged behind," ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said in a release. "A country's level of development proved to be a poor indicator of whether it respected basic rights to bargain collectively, strike for decent conditions, or simply join a union at all."
The ITUC also found some rather disheartening statistics, including:
- In the past year, governments of at least 35 countries have arrested or imprisoned workers as a tactic to resist demands for democratic rights, decent wages, safer working conditions and secure jobs.
- In at least 9 countries murder and disappearance of workers were commonly used as intimidation tactics.
- Workers in at least 53 countries have been dismissed or suspended for attempting to negotiate better working conditions.
- Laws and practices in at least 87 countries exclude certain type of workers from the right to strike.
For more information on the report's findings, you can check out this video from the ITUC below: