Not only does Asia-Pacific remain as the second worst region in the world for workers, its rating in the 2022 edition of the ITUC Global Rights Index increased from 4.17 last year to 4.22 this year, falling between systematic violations of rights and no guarantee of rights. This means that the labour rights situation in the region became worse over the past year.
Four out of the ten worst countries for the working people are countries and territories* of ITUC-Asia Pacific affiliates – Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Türkiye. In the 2021 report, these are the same countries from the ITUC-Asia Pacific territories that were included in the top ten list.
The ITUC Global Rights Index 2022 highlighted the use of extreme police brutality and violence to suppress strikes, the unabated human rights violations, the silencing of trade unions and pro-democracy organisations, and the arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings in some countries in the region.
Asian and Pacific workers’ fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining were under attack – 91 percent of the countries surveyed impeded union registration, 87 percent violated the right to strike and excluded workers from the right to organise, and 83 percent violated the right to collective bargaining and arrested and detained workers.
It is also worth nothing that workers experienced violence in 43 percent of countries in Asia-Pacific compared to 35 percent in 2021. Killings of workers in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and the Philippines were documented in the past year. Trade union leaders from Cambodia, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka were among those who faced high-profile arrests and ongoing detention in the period covered by the report.
Aside from labour rights, other civil and political rights are restricted in the region. According to the Global Rights Index, 70 percent of countries in Asia-Pacific denied workers access to justice while 61 percent restricted freedom of speech and assembly.
Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific, said, “Democracy is declining in Asia-Pacific region. With populism and dictatorships on the rise, individual liberties, including freedom of thought, expression and assembly, are being violated, resulting in more and more people becoming disillusioned with democracy.”
He stressed, “We should not compromise the democracy that we have promoted over centuries and must continue to pursue violations of human and trade union rights under authoritarian regimes, in accordance with international rules.”
*Aside from the countries categorised as Asia-Pacific in the Global Rights Index (GRI), ITUC-Asia Pacific’s membership includes trade union organisations from Türkiye (classified under Europe in the GRI) as well as from Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Palestine (classified under MENA in the GRI).