Asia Pacific

ICTUR provides in-depth country profiles for all countries in Trade Unions of the World. Summary overviews are also published online (accesssible below) when ICTUR responds to violations, publishes relevant features in International Union Rights, or presents comments to international human rights monitoring procedures.

Brunei Darasalam
Cook Islands
Korea, DPRK
Marshall Islands
Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands
Sri Lanka
Timor Leste

Asia is home to 4.3 billion people, comprising almost two-thirds of the population of the world. China, India and Japan have some of the world’s largest unions: the behemoth All-China Federation of Trade Unions claims 239 million members. Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines developed models of corporatism and enterprise unionism influenced by US occupation. Similar models developed in Malaysia and Singapore emerging from British colonialism. The socialist planned economies of China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea have centralised trade union monopolies with close integration of party, State and trade union and little or no scope for independent labour organising. Indonesia’s monopoly system opened to pluralism with political reform in the 21st Century.

In Bangladesh workers’ protests are violently repressed by the police. Dozens of protestors have been killed. Unions remain banned from the export processing zones, despite proposed law reforms, as these have not yet been adopted. When the Rana Plaza factory collapsed more than a thousand garment workers were killed, leading to global attention on conditions there. Australia has some of the region’s most robust protection for trade union rights, though right-wing governments have repeatedly sought to ‘liberalise’ labour law. Repeated ‘Inquires’ have exasperated construction unions.

The Philippines gained notoriety for violence against workers since the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre. The level of anti-union violence declined from 2008, it never went away, but has surged dramatically in 2017-18 under the blunt policies of Duterte. In South Korea police have illegally raided union offices. Massive fines, lengthy prison terms, violent repression, and mass arrests are frequently reported. There are outright bans on public sector strikes in Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and the Philippines. In India vast mobilisations of workers in recent years have claimed participation in strikes of up to 100 million, these being by far the largest strikes in world history.

Full details for all countries in the region, including political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profiles: Trade Unions of the World (2016)


The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

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based in London, promoting international trade
union rights through research and advocacy services.
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