Asia is facing an onslaught of work-related deaths and diseases. Of the 2.2 million people who die each year all over the world as a result of work-related accidents or illness, 1.1 million are Asian. Yet the problem of workplace health and safety and its victims remains invisible, according to a new report released today in commemoration of Workers Memorial Day by the Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), a Solidarity Center partner.

The report, “Invisible Victims of Development—Workers Health and Safety in Asia,” aims to highlight the severity of the problem through detailed information from six Asian countries: China, India, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. Official data are lacking. Often, the very existence of hazardous work conditions is denied. Yet grassroots accounts confirm that these workers and their families are marginalized, exploited, and denied compensation and justice.

“Sick and injured workers in Asia remain invisible as most countries in Asia do not adequately report work-related deaths, injuries, and diseases,” said AMRC Executive Director Sanjiv Pandita. “These victims are denied justice and dignity. Their deaths are the price that we as society have paid for the sake of development.”

Sanjiv Pandita was the key speaker at the press conference. Also present were contributors to the report from China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. In addition, victims from China and India shared their stories, and two short films depicting the deplorable state of workplace safety and health in China and other Asian countries were shown.

Key findings from the report include:

  • In Thailand, lowering of labor standards has led to low wages, long working hours, and precarious work conditions.
  • In the Philippines, the figures on occupational safety and health are available on an ad hoc basis once every four years, and there are no data available for the “in between” missing years.
  • In India, there are discrepancies in the collected data by various agencies; for example, the number of fatal accidents ranges from 400 to 1,000 (an incredible figure in a country of 1 billion), depending on which agency is collecting the data.
  • In Indonesia, there has not been a single case of occupational disease compensation.
  • China accounts for nearly half the Asian work-related fatalities, due not only to its large workforce but also to a very high accident rate.
  • Many workers, especially migrant workers, are not acknowledged in official reports.

Workers Memorial Day, celebrated each year on April 28, is an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured, or made unwell by their work. For more information about the report, visit the AMRC website. Click here for information about Workers Memorial Day activities.

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