Democratic workers’ rights crumbling: 2024 ITUC Global Rights Index

The 2024 ITUC Global Rights Index makes for difficult reading – a clear and urgent wake-up call that the democratic values and fundamental rights agreed upon by most countries at an international level are crumbling.

ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle said: “For 11 years now the Index has tracked a rapid decline in workers’ rights in every region of the world. Workers are the beating heart of democracy, and their right to be heard is crucial to the health and sustainability of democratic systems. When their rights are violated, democracy itself is attacked. Democracy, trade unions and workers’ rights go together; you simply cannot have one without the other.”

The ITUC Global Rights Index is a comprehensive review of workers’ rights in law ranking 151 countries against a list of 97 indicators derived from ILO Conventions and jurisprudence, and as such is the only database of its kind. It rates countries on a scale from 1 to 5+ based on the degree of respect for workers’ rights. Violations are recorded each year from April to March.

The 10 worst countries for working people are: Bangladesh, Belarus, Ecuador, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, the Philippines, Tunisia and Türkiye.

  • Twenty-two trade unionists were killed in six countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, the Philippines, and the Republic of Korea.

  • Conditions are so bad in 12 countries due to the breakdown of the rule of law that they are rated 5+.

  • Only two countries have seen their rating improve in 2024: Romania has moved from 4 to 3 and Brazil is now rated 4, an improvement on 5 last year.

  • Thirteen countries have worse ratings: Costa Rica, Finland, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Switzerland and

  • 87% of countries violated the right to strike.

  • 79% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining.

  • 75% of countries excluded workers from the right to establish or join a trade union.

  • 74% of countries impeded the registration of unions.

  • In 65% of countries, workers had no or restricted access to justice.

  • 43% of countries restricted free speech and assembly.

  • Workers were arrested and detained in 74 countries.

  • Workers experienced violence in 44 countries.

  • Europe has an average rating of 2.73, down from 2.56 in 2023, continuing a rapid deterioration from 1.84 in 2014 – the biggest decline seen in any region in the world over the past 10 years.

  • The worst region in the world for working people is the Middle East and North Africa, with an average rating of 4.74, worse than the 4.53 it received in 2023, and the 4.25 rating it had in 2014. The rights to collective bargaining, to join a trade union and to register a trade union were violated by 1all countries in the region.

A truly democratic movement

Luc Triangle concluded: “Despite a few modest improvements, the general picture shows a relentless attack on civil liberties, workers’ rights and the interests of working people. The Index tells the story of courageous workers and trade unionists who face grave dangers to improve the lives of their colleagues and defend democratic rights.

“This comes against the backdrop of a continuing, devastating cost-of-living crisis, technological disruption rapidly changing the world of work, and worsening global levels of violent conflict where working people face the catastrophic consequences of war.

“A truly democratic movement is the only way that these trends can be addressed, sustainably. A movement that crosses borders and sectors, ages and genders, races and religions and has the power, presence and accountability to change the balance of power in every workplace, country and global institution. Trade unions are that movement.

“That is why, with the release of the 2024 Index, in a year when four billion people are due to vote, the ITUC’s For Democracy campaign aims to defend and strengthen democracy in the workplace, in society and at the global level against right-wing, vested interests focused on eroding workers’ rights. This is our shared struggle.

“We are the foremost practitioners and defenders of, and fighters for the democratic values we exercise every day to create a fairer and safer world for all. Our work is crucial now more than ever.”

The 2024 ITUC Global Rights Index will be launched at 13:30 on 12 June during the International Labour Conference, at the International Labour Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. The launch can be followed online via this link.

The event will include contributions and testimonies from trade union representatives on the violation of rights faced by workers in some of the worst-rated countries in the world; and will include remarks from Luc Triangle, ITUC General Secretary and Paapa Danquah, ITUC Legal Director.