Here's The Biggest Irony Of “Celebrating” Labor Day In Pakistan

By Ather Ahmed | 2 May, 2017

Labor Day to me has always been one of those arbitrary holidays that you just accept without giving too much thought to. To be honest I never really understood the significance of the day neither was I ever bothered to ponder over the concept.

 

Obviously, as a child, I was able to deduce from the name that the day was meant to commemorate labor rights or something along those lines but I was neither taught what it actually meant nor did I bother learning about it.

labor-day-2017-1
Source: dunyanews.tv

Given my indifference towards the subject, the day shouldn’t have been any different from the previous ones except that it was. I had to show up to work on Labor Day, in fact it was my first day on the job. I didn’t see it as a breach of my basic human rights however I would be lying if I say that I wasn’t jealous of all the people who had the day off. To rid myself of this irking feeling I went for a smoke outside and then it hit me.

As I watched the laborers work relentlessly on construction sites in the scorching heat I came to the realization that for a daily wage worker, a day off even the public holiday kind is a day wasted.

Labor Day or the International Workers Day as it is often termed, is the product of a series of labor movements that began in the late 19th during the industrial revolution. The main objective of these movements was to better the conditions for the working class through the introductions of trade unions. Concepts like minimum wage, 8 hour day work shift and age limit to be employed full time were propagated during this time.

Fast forward to today these ideas have become conventions in the Western World when it comes to working conditions.

Though it has made great progress in this regard in the past few decades Pakistan still has a long way to go when it comes to the plight of the working class.

labor-day-2017-3
Source: samaa.tv

Take the household help for instance. I don’t recall my maid (and yes, recognizing that we have maids may be an embarrasment for some but it is a reality) being given the day off ever in light of labor day and I am pretty sure that is the case for most households. Not to say that either of us our in anyway cruel in not doing so. It’s just that the collective mindset, yours and mine included, upholds white collar jobs to a different standard than other forms of employment in this case menial labor. I wont go into the intricacies of this apparent lack of empathy by society, it’s a complex issue that I am not intellectually equipped to address. However I do strongly feel that moments like these call for self reflection.

 

And as a self-reflection exercise, here’s a glimpse into how Pakistan celebrated Labor Day

 

All said and done, especially after having experienced my own first day at work on the very day, I feel slightly ashamed, not out of my apathy and aloofness in regard to a major portion of our society but at my own selfishness being the catalyst for this introspection.

 


Cover image via: dawn.com

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