Labour Day is celebrated on 1st May every year, and is therefore also known as May Day. Its purpose is to show support for workers in Singapore, and therefore it is fitting that Labour Day is a public holiday, and a day off for most people. If 1st May falls on a Sunday, the following Monday will be a public holiday in lieu.
In Singapore, Labour Day became a public holiday in 1960. The public holiday was introduced by the PAP (People’s Action Party) when they came into power and introduced paid holidays for all workers. 1960 was also the year of the first official May Day Rally, which featured a speech by the Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, considered to be the founding father of independent Singapore. The theme of the speech in that year was the new government, as the PAP had recently been elected, and the trade union movement. Lee Kuan Yew promised that his party would always be on the side of the workers.
Labour Day is not only a day of rest for workers in Singapore, but also a day of remembrance. Labour Day honours everyone who has worked hard to make Singapore a powerful, wealthy nation known for its high standard of living, education and healthcare. The public holiday ensures that all workers, no matter how junior or senior they are in their job, have a day to relax and celebrate with their colleagues, friends and family.
Labour Day is also a time to look back at the achievements workers have made in Singapore by sticking together and standing up for their rights. There is a history of rallies and protests taking place on Labour Day, which over the years have contributed to changes in the country that made life better for working people.
Singapore gained independence and became a republic in 1965, and in its early days the speeches and atmosphere at the rallies were militant, as the trade unions were still struggling against the effects of colonialism. Over time, as progress was made, the rallies became more of a celebration rather than a protest, recognising the shared value of equality and fairness and the country’s move away from the exploitation that had been rife in the past.
Today in Singapore, Labour Day is celebrated with a party called the May Day Fiesta, held at various venues including the popular amusement park Universal Studios and the giant ferris wheel Singapore Flyer. There are activities for children and concerts featuring famous artists. However, the May Day Rally is still considered an important part of the long weekend, and Singaporeans make sure that the original reason for the public holiday is not forgotten.
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