Today we celebrate International Worker's Day, or May Day. For most of us, it is just another holiday, an extended weekend, a day off in the midst of summer to stay in the shade and comfort of one's home. Rarely do we stop and think what this day signifies, or why the day must be celebrated at all?
Worker's Day probably brings to mind a faceless worker toiling on an endless assembly line in a Chinese manufacturing plant, or a cashier at a US fast-food outlet demanding minimum wages. We tend to shy away from discussing topics concerning labour rights, unions, worker protests and strikes as these have the colour red smeared all over them. We tend to associate victory of the labour struggles with end to slavery in the West, and the fall of zamindari system and bonded labour in India. For most of us, the topic probably ends there.
But these topics have greater bearings on our present lives than we care to admit. The eight-hour work day, the five-day work week, the paid maternity leave, the casual sick leave, the assurance of minimum wages, an equal pay for equal work irrespective of gender -- that we all take for granted, are the results of worker struggles since the dawn of the industrial age.
It is to commemorate these victories, and as a reminder to uphold these values in the growing clamour for profits and ease of doing business, that we observe International Worker's Day in more than 80 countries across the world. These labour laws today apply to all categories of workers, including entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers or MBAs, as they all make up the labour force of a country.
We have certainly come a long way since the kid who washed bottles in Charles Dickens' world. Thanks to labour movements around the world, attitudes towards workers have changed too. Instead of being shunned, they are now treated with dignity. Most of us reap the benefits of a growing economy. But is it work alone that drives us? The question is, is this notion of work utopian?Some people go beyond this definition of work. They work to surpass the accepted norms of their times, and find solutions to questions that bother them. These people work with a sense of pride, a sense of artisanship. They are not happy building the bonnet of a thousand cars daily for eight hours. They want to build their own car, and paint it their way.
It is the entrepreneurs who possess the right mindset towards work. An entrepreneur works to provide an outlet to his creativity, to realise his intellectual capability and to give shape to his own ideas and dreams. It naturally means that an entrepreneur respects the same urge in his employees. Consequently, entrepreneurs today are setting new standards of labour rights, and establishing a deep bond between a labourer and his labour, which till date existed only among artists and the scientific community.It is no coincidence that new food joints tend to pay more to its workers than corporate chain outlets. A man who builds a hand made toy takes greater pride in his work than an assembly line worker at a toy making factory. A sense of ownership is common among entrepreneurs. There is greater respect for skill, dignity of labour, and a sense of equality in micro-economics. With the rising entrepreneurial spirit in a society, condition of labour is bound to improve. After all, entrepreneurs dream of making the world a better place.
It makes me believe that the day is not far when Worker's Day will probably be synonymous with Entrepreneur's Day.