Belarus, China and Colombia are countries with the worst worker rights violations in the world, while the Middle East and North Africa is the world’s worst region when it comes to fundamental rights at work, according to the 2015 Global Rights Index released today.

“Workers in Colombia and Guatemala have been murdered for trying to negotiate better working conditions, while in Qatar and Saudi Arabia migrants continue to endure forced labor and labor law exclusions which amount to modern slavery,” says Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which issued the report. Union members were murdered in 11 countries, an increase of one from the last report, including 22 deaths in Colombia alone.

The other top 10 worst countries for working people are Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and United Arab Emirates.

“In 73 of 141 countries, workers faced dismissals, suspensions, pay cuts and demotions for attempting to negotiate better working conditions, while in 84 countries employers adopted illegal strategies to deny or delay bargaining with representative trade unions,” says Burrow.

The report notes a worrying trend in the “immense increase in the number of arbitrary arrests and detentions of workers for exercising their rights in a legitimate and peaceful manner” with the number of countries where such violations were reported rising from 35 in 2013–2014 to 44 in 2014–2015 and now includes countries such as Spain and Brazil.

The Index ranks countries based on the frequency with which worker rights are violated, and finds that worker rights in eight countries have diminished since last year: Burundi, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, Iran, Georgia, Russia, United Kingdom and Spain.

Five countries received perfect scores: Austria, Finland, Netherlands, Norway and Uruguay. The report finds that two countries, Mozambique and Lesotho, have made notable improvements.

“The World’s Worst Countries for Workers” also finds:

  • In nearly 60 percent of the 141 countries ranked, certain categories of workers are excluded from fundamental labor rights.
  • 70 percent of countries deny the right to strike to some or all workers.
  • Two-thirds of countries deny workers collective bargaining rights.
  • More than half of countries in the survey deny workers access to the rule of law.

The report, which the ITUC has issued annually for the past 30 years, connects deteriorating worker rights and inability to freely form unions with the world’s increasing global economic inequality, where more than 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty.

Download the full report, which includes a country-by-country description, maps and graphics.

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