ITUC Global Rights Index 2021: Asia-Pacific remains the second worst region in the world for workers’ rights

Jul 2021
United Nations
Global Rights Index 2021, Trade Union Rights, Human Rights, Asia-Pacific

The Asia-Pacific region remains the second worst region in the world for workers’ rights according to the 2021 edition of ITUC’s annual Global Rights Index. While Asia-Pacific retains its ranking since 2014, its rating increased from 4.09 to 4.17, falling between systematic violations of rights and no guarantee of rights. The increased rating indicates that the workers’ rights situation in the region worsened compared to last year.

Four out of the 10 worst countries for the working people are countries and territories of ITUC-AP affiliates.* These include Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Turkey.

Myanmar was not included in the ten worst countries in 2020, but due to the breakdown of the rule of law in the country after the violent military takeover of the government in February, its rating has increased to category 5+.

In the webinar organised by ITUC to share the findings of the Global Rights Index 2021, Maung Maung, President of Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar, recounted the repressive acts directly made by the military junta against workers and trade unionists in Myanmar. He said, “One of our members from the mining sector was shot and killed. Nine [of our members] were arrested and are in jail now, and 29 of our Central Committee members, including myself, were issued a warrant. The passports of the 29 were also declared void.”

Other key findings specific to the countries and territories of the ITUC-AP affiliates include the following:

  • Among the 23 surveyed countries in Asia-Pacific, 87 per cent excluded workers from the right to establish and join a trade union and violated the right to strike, while 91 per cent violated the right to collective bargaining.
  • In 14 countries of the 23 surveyed countries in Asia-Pacific (61 per cent), there was no guarantee of rights.
  • 18 out of 34 countries and territories of the ITUC-AP affiliates are in category 5+ or 5 with no guarantee of rights.
  • Trade unionists were murdered in Myanmar and the Philippines.
  • High-profile union leaders were prosecuted in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Hong Kong.
  • India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines adopted regressive laws that severely violated civil liberties and workers’ labour protections.

Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-AP, said, “At the time when the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the lives, jobs, and livelihood of the working people, it is appalling to witness the erosion and systematic violations of workers’ rights in many countries and territories of ITUC-AP affiliates.

“During the pandemic, workers have been at the frontlines not only in keeping the healthcare systems running, but also in keeping the societies and economies in the region afloat. Yet, instead of treating the pandemic as a wake-up call for governments to restore and uplift workers’ wellbeing and dignity, the COVID-19 is rather being exploited to adopt regressive laws and to justify the violent and repressive acts against workers and trade unions in many countries in the region. Workers do not deserve this kind of injustice.”

Shoya Yoshida salutes the resilience of the working people amidst the worsening human and trade union rights situation in Asia-Pacific. “Despite the shrinking democratic space and the crumbling guarantees of rights in the region, workers and trade unionists remain unrelenting in fighting for their rights,” he said.

The Global Rights Index 2021 can be accessed at

*Aside from the countries categorised as Asia-Pacific in the Global Rights Index (GRI), ITUC-AP’s membership includes trade union organisations from Turkey (categorised under Europe in the GRI) as well as from Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Palestine (categorised under MENA in the GRI).

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