Global Rights Index 2024
Now in its 11th year,
the Global Rights Index offers an important status report on the worldwide struggle to defend and exercise core pillars of democracy: the fundamental rights and freedoms of working people and trade unions.
As it attests, there are clear signs that governments and companies are accelerating their efforts to trample on these basic rights that underpin the very nature of democracy and the rule of law.

At a time when workers worldwide are increasingly faced with impossible daily choices, such as whether to feed their children or clothe them, they are being failed by their governments and their leaders. As millions of households struggle in a debilitating scenario of squeezed incomes and an entrenched cost-of-living crisis, policymakers and business leaders are actively restricting workers’ rights to collectively demand fairer wages or to legally exercise their right to strike.

With repeated calls for fair wages and conditions going unheard and governments taking a wrecking ball to the right to strike and collective bargaining, workers’ faith in democracy is crumbling. In a year where four billion people globally will participate in elections, right-wing authoritarians are circling, singling out easy scapegoats to blame in the run-up to elections and forwarding an anti-worker agenda of their own to put into play beyond them. Democracy hangs in the balance.

Almost nine out of 10 countries worldwide violated the right to strike, while about eight in 10 countries denied workers the right to bargain collectively for better terms and conditions. In a deeply worrying development this year, 49% of countries arbitrarily arrested or detained trade union members, up from 46% in 2023, while more than four in 10 countries denied or constrained freedom of speech or assembly.

These figures and trends reinforce a global picture in which hard-won democratic rights and civil liberties are under grave and relentless attack. That is why, this year, the ITUC launched its For Democracy campaign in support of the rights and freedoms that all individuals should enjoy without fear of persecution or oppression.

Violations of workers’ rights in
The right to free speech and assembly was restricted in 43% of countries, up from 42% in 2023.

In real terms, 65 countries out of 151 surveyed infringed this right – an increase of 29 since 2014, when the Index began.

Argentina has witnessed mass demonstrations in response to President Javier Milei’s attempts to criminalise street protests as part of harsh austerity measures, while Zimbabwe has introduced a law that makes it illegal for anyone to call for economic sanctions on the country.

Credit: Luis Robayo / AFP

Three major union federations, the CGT, the CTA-T, and the CTA-A, united to stand against the serious threat to civil liberties and other basic rights posed by the government of Javier Milei in Argentina.

74% of countries impeded the registration of trade unions, up from 73% in 2023.

In Egypt, it is estimated that, since 2018 – when all independent unions were dissolved – the number of independent trade unions has decreased from 1,500 to approximately 150. The authorities have placed often absurd obstacles in the way of attempts to register a union.

Credit: Chris Jung / NurPhoto via AFP - KCTU

The Republic of Korea was one of 151 countries that violated the right to trade union activities. Trade union official Yang Hoe-Dong died after setting himself on fire to protest the ongoing harassment of trade unionists by government authorities.

Workers were detained or arrested in 74 countries, a leap from 69 in 2023.

In Myanmar, military authorities abducted a union leader and held him incommunicado for five months before he was sentenced – without legal representation – on charges of terrorism.

Credit: STR / AFP

Relatives await the release of imprisoned family members in an annual amnesty organised by Myanmar’s junta to mark the new year celebrations in the country. Since the military coup in 2021, trade unionists are arrested, detained and many have been forced into exile by the brutal military regime.

The right to strike was violated in 87% of countries, unchanged from 2023.

Nine union leaders in Cambodia were prosecuted for engaging in a peaceful strike against union busting at a casino, while mass protests against pension reforms in France were violently suppressed by police.

Credit: Sebastien Bozon / AFP

France was one of 131 countries that violated the right to strike by prosecuting trade union members who took part in last year’s mass protests against changes to the pension laws.

In 75% of countries, workers were denied the right to establish or join a trade union, a small improvement from 2023 when 77% were excluded from this fundamental right.

The situation remains dire in most countries. In Morocco, judges could not form or join a trade union. In Rwanda, the security services were not allowed to organise, and in Japan, the law excluded firefighters, prison staff, and the Japan Coast Guard from this right.

Credit: Yuichi Yamazaki / AFP

In Japan, firefighters are excluded from joining a trade union, which violates the right to freedom of association.

79% of countries violated the right to collective bargaining, unchanged from 2023.

In Sri Lanka, the government removed four unions from the reconstituted tripartite National Labour Advisory Council, essentially making it easier for employers to influence labour law reforms.

Credit: Elsa Biyick / Hans Lucas via AFP

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, companies used subcontracting as a strategy to avoid collective bargaining and having to deliver fair conditions to workers.

Workers had no or restricted access to justice in 65% of countries, unchanged from 2023.

In one shocking example, the Supreme Court in North Macedonia transferred the property of the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia (CCM) to the state, effectively legitimising the forceful takeover of union property.

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Madagascar was one of 99 countries in which workers had no or reduced access to justice.

Workers in 44 countries experienced some form of violent attacks.

In Kenya, police violently disrupted a peaceful protest in Nairobi calling for medical interns to be given postings after extensive delays in the placement process. In Panama, the offices of a union which orchestrated action against a mining concession were set on fire. Trade unionists and workers died because of violence or were killed in six countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, the Philippines, and the Republic of Korea.

Credit: Thilina Kaluthotage / NURPHOTO via AFP

Workers faced violence when they tried to organise and demand better conditions in 44 countries, including in Sri Lanka.

The 10 worst countries for workers in 2024

Each year, the ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries depending on their compliance with collective labour rights and documents the violations of internationally recognised rights by governments and employers.

In 2024, these are the 10 worst countries for working people: Bangladesh, Belarus, Ecuador, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, the Philippines, Tunisia, and Türkiye.

Country-level analysis: changed ratings

The Russian Federation and Ukraine were reintroduced to the Index in 2024. Following the Russian aggression, workers’ rights in both countries continue to be restricted. Over the past two years, the Russian Federation has clamped down on basic rights and freedoms, including in occupied areas of Ukraine, while Ukraine has introduced a raft of regressive emergency laws that have restricted workers’ rights.

Thirteen countries saw their ratings deteriorate in 2024: Costa Rica, Finland, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Switzerland, and Venezuela.

Only two countries – Brazil and Romania – improved their ratings.

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Romania’s rating improved from 4 to 3 as the government restored basic, universal rights. The right to strike has been extended and collective bargaining is now obligatory in companies with more than 10 employees.

Credit: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva via AFP

Finland lost its top-tier Index rating as right-wing Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s coalition proposed reforms that would severely undermine workers’ and civil rights.

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The arbitrary arrest and prosecution of trade unionists have led to Mexico’s rating dropping to 4.

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Nigeria’s rating fell to 5 due to trade unions and their members being subjected to repeated interference from state authorities since the presidential elections in February 2023.

Regional overview
Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) continued to rank as the world’s worst region for workers’ rights with an average rating of 4.74, marking a significant and alarming deterioration from 4.53 in 2023. Every single country in this region has excluded workers from the right to establish or join a trade union, violated the right to collective bargaining, and impeded the registration of unions. A total of 95% of MENA countries have violated the right to strike.

This year, the ratings of Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia worsened.

The region was paralysed by conflict and a resulting breakdown of the rule of law. In these desperate conditions, no guarantee of fundamental labour rights was possible in Libya, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen.

Credit: Marwan Naamani / AFP

Middle East and North Africa remains the worst region in the world for working people with a rating of 4.74. Qatar has thus far failed to deliver on its commitments to improve conditions for migrant workers. Although migrant workers are supposedly able to freely move between jobs, according to the ILO, a third of more than a million requests to do so were rejected between September 2020 and October 2023.


Asia-Pacific remained the second-worst region for workers’ rights, with an average rating of 4.13 – a negligible improvement on 2023. About nine in 10 countries across the region excluded workers from the right to establish or join a trade union, violated the right to strike and impeded the registration of unions.

Prominent trade union leaders regularly faced persecution and harassment across the region. Unionists in Cambodia, Iran, and Myanmar were arrested and received heavy sentences on spurious charges. Authorities violently repressed strikes in Bangladesh, while the government of the Republic of Korea continued to target unions through the illegitimate use of public prosecutors and the criminalisation of union activities. Protests were systematically disrupted by police and trade union members were beaten up. Three years after the 2021 military coup, the junta in Myanmar continued to crack down on the independent trade union movement.

In Indonesia, unions campaigned against the infamous Omnibus Law which removes minimum wage protection for almost all Indonesian workers and exempts micro and small enterprises from the obligation to engage in collective bargaining in a country where around 97 per cent of workers are employed by micro, small or medium firms.

Afghanistan continued to be faced with a deeply entrenched humanitarian crisis, heavily impacting workers’ welfare and prospects. The ILO estimates that job losses following the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021 have totalled more than 900,000 in a year. Youth and women workers were most affected: women are no longer allowed to work.

Credit: Jung Yeon-je / AFP

Asia-Pacific is one of the worst regions for working people, with an average rating of 4.13. May Day protests called for workers’ rights to be respected in the Republic of Korea, where trade unions face systematic persecution and harassment, including through vexatious litigation.


Conditions for workers and unions in Africa remained broadly unchanged on a regional level in 2023, with an average rating of 3.88. More than 90% of countries in the region excluded workers from the right to establish or join a trade union and violated the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.

This year, the ratings of Madagascar, Nigeria, and Sudan worsened.

In economies largely reliant on the informal sector (87% of all employment in sub-Saharan Africa), workers were routinely excluded from labour protections and could not exercise their right to form and join trade unions.

There were flagrant examples of union busting in Guinea and Madagascar, threats of and dismissal of striking workers in Burkina Faso and Cameroon, and police attacks against striking workers in Kenya and South Africa.

In Burundi, civil liberties were heavily suppressed as the ruling party continued to strengthen its control over institutions and to weaken and quash political opposition. Central African Republic, Somalia and Sudan, remained deeply afflicted by conflicts and humanitarian crises, which eroded access to livelihoods and working conditions.

In South Sudan, the human rights and humanitarian situation further deteriorated due to ongoing conflict, and public service workers have not been paid since August 2023.

Recent coups in Western African countries have also severely affected trade union activities and civil liberties. In Burkina Faso, for example, tripartite social dialogue has been frozen since the High Council for Social Dialogue (Haut Conseil du Dialogue Social) was abolished. In Chad and Gabon, strikes and protests have been suppressed by the military regimes with trade unions no longer able to operate freely.

Credit: Tony Karumba / AFP

The Africa region had an average rating of 3.88, with trade unions continuing to be faced with violent repression. In Nairobi, a peaceful protest by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) was violently disrupted by police.


While the average rating for the Americas was broadly unchanged at 3.56, the region remained the deadliest for workers and unionists, with 16 killings recorded in 2023-2024. Almost 90% of countries in the region violated the right to strike and impeded the registration of trade unions.

Although Brazil’s rating improved under the Lula administration, the ratings of Costa Rica, Mexico, and Venezuela worsened.

Trade unionists and workers faced death threats, attacks, and targeted assassinations in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Exploitative employers in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama engaged in union busting, especially in sectors where workers were already vulnerable to abusive working conditions. Arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of unionists, intended to muzzle the independent trade union movement, were commonplace in Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela.

In 2024, the armed gangs spreading terror and chaos in Haiti stepped up coordinated attacks on state institutions and gained further control of communities. Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency, leaving conditions for workers in disarray.

However, in the United States of America, workers and trade unions scored big wins in 2023. The United Auto Workers (UAW) organised a coordinated strike, which led to pay increases and other concessions from Detroit automakers. Workers from at least 385 Starbucks locations voted to unionise despite fierce opposition from the company, leading to a process leading towards collective bargaining. In historic strikes against Hollywood studios, screenwriters, actors and related workers won pay raises and restrictions on the use of artificial intelligence.

Credit: Saul Loeb / AFP

With a rating of 3.56, the Americas is the deadliest region in the world for trade unionists and almost 90% of countries surveyed violated the right to strike. However, in the USA, despite fierce resistance from the company, the staff of at least 385 Starbucks locations voted to unionise.


While often held up as an example for others to follow on workers’ rights, Europe’s average rating worsened from 2.56 to 2.73 over the year, as working conditions deteriorated and workers’ rights were further eroded. In the Nordic countries there have been concerted attempts over the past year to dismantle fundamental pillars of social democracy and ongoing efforts to undermine the right to strike and protest. Right-wing movements, that are inherently anti-worker, have enabled and encouraged regressive policies against unions and workers.

As the data reveals, and in contrast to its reputation as the global standard bearer for workers’ rights, Europe’s rating over the past decade has shown the steepest decline from 1.84 in 2014, to 2.73 in 2024. This continued descent indicates that the European “worker-centric” social model is being actively dismantled by governments and businesses, and at an accelerating pace, with serious implications for workers in the region and the risk of it triggering a global race to the bottom.

The ratings of Finland, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation (since its last rating in 2021) and Switzerland worsened, while Romania improved its rating.

Contributing to the general deterioration across the region, were the criminalisation of strikes and the stigmatisation of strikers in Belgium and France, as well as the use of an excessively broad definition of essential services to restrict or ban strikes in Albania, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, and the United Kingdom.

Employers in Armenia and Poland meddled in union elections, while yellow unions were created in Armenia, Greece, the Netherlands, and North Macedonia to thwart independent worker representation.

In Sweden, Tesla refused to engage in collective bargaining with IF Metall, leading to strike action in October 2023 and a historic show of solidarity from unions in Sweden and neighbouring countries aimed at protecting a core pillar of the Nordic social model.

In Bulgaria, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) won a 25-year battle to have it guaranteed in law that criminal charges could be brought against any employer found to be violating trade union rights. Trade unions have lauded the introduction of the sanctions as providing robust protections to workers and unionists.

Credit: Jessica Gow / TT News Agency via AFP

Europe’s average rating worsened from 2.56 to 2.73 in 2024, continuing a long-term deterioration from its rating of 1.84 in 2014. Workers’ rights were further eroded across the continent, including in Sweden where members of the IF Metall union were forced to take strike action for a collective bargaining agreement at Tesla’s manufacturing plant.

The global struggle for basic rights and freedoms

This year’s report makes for difficult reading – a clear and urgent wake-up call that the future of democracy and fundamental rights agreed by most countries at an international level are at risk.

While there have been some signs of positive improvements, even in the worst regions, the general picture displays a relentless attack on civil liberties and the interests of working people. This comes against the backdrop of a devastating cost-of-living crisis in an era of technological disruption where the world of work is changing rapidly.

Conflicts around the world, involving Haiti, Israel, Palestine, the Russian Federation, Sudan, Ukraine, and Yemen, have only made this situation worse, making it all but impossible for unions to function freely to protect workers and for working families to access livelihoods, as they are forced to face the catastrophic consequences of war.

Workers are the beating heart of democracy, and their voices are crucial to assuring the health and sustainability of democratic systems. Conversely, when their rights are violated, restricted, and undermined, democracy itself is on the line.

As the world approaches a raft of elections this year, the ITUC’s For Democracy campaign aims to defend and strengthen the pillars of democracy against right-wing, vested interests focused on eroding workers’ freedoms and basic human rights, either to tighten their grip on power or to increase corporate profits at the expense of ordinary working families.

This report also tells the story of the heroic and courageous actions of workers and trade unionists who often face the gravest possible dangers to improve the lives of their colleagues and defend democratic rights everywhere. Whether it occurs in the workplace, in society, or at the global level, this is our shared struggle. It is clear, as the international trade union movement strives together to defend democratic values and the rights that underpin them, that it must play an integral role in shaping a fairer and safer world for all.

Credit: Clarens Siffroy / AFP

In Haiti, rated 5+, all law and order collapsed as armed gangs spread terror and carried out coordinated attacks on state institutions. Civilians have been exposed to kidnappings, sexual and gender-based violence, unlawful killings and attempts by armed groups to recruit children.