How May Day Came to Be in Sweden




We all know May 1st internationally as Labor Day, the day dedicated specifically to celebrating workers' efforts and achievements. This day is also known as International Workers' Day or May Day.


May Day became the day of the American labor movement during the late part of the 19th century demanding an eight-hour workday. And shortly afterwards, during the early 20th century, this day became the day of the Swedish labor movement. In 1939, May 1st became the first secular holiday (red day) that was not linked to the church.


Labor Day was celebrated for the first time in Sweden in 1890, where protests took place in 21 places worldwide. People gathered demanding an eight-hour workday and listened to different speeches.


At first, demonstrations and movements were mostly organized by Social Democrats and the Left Party. But nowadays, other parties are taking the opportunity to protest on this day. Initial demands were related to labor law conditions, including the eight-hour working day, better pay, fair working conditions, and the right of taking off-days.


Most of Sweden's workplace achievements today can be linked back to those workers' protests. Fair pay, work-life balance, family leaves, and a sufficient number of paid off-days are significant accomplishments that greatly influenced the Swedish work culture.


May Day has become an important red day in Sweden, as people go to demonstrations after a busy Walpurgis Night celebrating the beginning of spring. And although Swedes celebrate the achievements of workers, protests and marches still take place, demanding better refugee policy, equality for women, employee welfare, and fair taxes. People chant slogans and hold up signs on this day, in addition to the speeches that still take place, and the songs that are sung.


And on Labor Day this year, of course, we won't let you leave empty-handed!

Head over to our online course, The Swedish Work Environment: Expats' Guide, and use the discount code MAYDAY2021 to benefit from 20% off of your subscription.


From our team to you, HAPPY MAY DAY!