Labour Day is a public holiday in Djibouti that occurs every year on 1 May. It is also called May Day or International Workers’ Day.
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The origin of the holiday is the 4 May 1886 Haymarket Massacre during a labour protest in Chicago, USA. As the world industrialised in the mid to late 1800’s, the dismal working conditions in many factories led to a protest movement.
The Haymarket Massacre became a key moment in the movement, leading to the establishment of Labour Day, then called “International Workers Day”, to demand things like an 8-hour work day, safer working conditions, and increased pay.
Labour Day came to Djibouti under French influence during the days it was a colony of France, but it has been adopted into the local culture since then. The day still retains some associations with politics, but most people in Djibouti see it as simply a day off work.
In some ways, Labour Day is a day of national unity. It is meant to be a time when workers of all stripes come together to celebrate the value of work and the contributions of both themselves and others to the common national good. But the day has also often been a lightning rod of disunity and conflict as protestors march and make demands for a “better deal” for workers.
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