Japan’s Expanding Efforts Supporting Workplace Human Rights. Domestically and in Global Supply Chains. September 2023.

Japan, despite being a global economic superpower open to international business, is still perceived as a sometimes challenging and complex business environment for foreign companies. Aggressive policy initiatives to close the gap in domestic workplace rights & conditions, this is a welcome trend that should encourage and attract global businesses to locate here. Japan’s support of improved global workplace rights and conditions reflects its partnership with the UN and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

SDGs and human rights in society and the workplace are in an ongoing state of recognition, change, and improvement. Of course, this is nothing new; globally, and no less so in Japan. However, in some companies, Japan still lags behind many countries due to cultural differences in such areas as gender equality, salary / wage / overtime levels, and issues such as worker conditions relating to promotion, Manager/Subordinate conditions, etc. 

While the focus of this article is on Japan’s support of Global Supply Chain (GSC) issues, we continue to reinforce Japan’s positive efforts on the domestic front in other Verse articles such as requirements for Company Work Rules, Measures for Coexistence with Foreign Workers, Policies Towards Job Satisfaction, and so on.

May 2023 Hiroshima G7 Summit: Global Supply Chain (GSC) Standards 6 Rights in Focus

In May 2023, at the G7 Hiroshima Summit, in the Global Supply Chain (GSC), “ensuring respect for international labor standards and human rights, especially the basic treaties adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) was a major theme. Japan also stated that “we are also committed to promoting decent work in line with Goal 8 of the SDGs, including through technical cooperation. There is a further need for efforts based on international labor standards and support for the realization of decent work for workers.”

August 2023: Japan Opens the first study group on responding to international issues

Announced by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), specifically, the study group is addressing the use of policy measures in the domestic labor field. In recent years, the movement to demand respect for human rights in companies has accelerated, and in September 2022, in order to further promote efforts to respect human rights by companies based on international standards, “Guidelines for Respect for Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains, etc.” were formulated.

As stated by the group, “there is an acknowledged problem that Japanese companies do not know how to respond according to the guidelines in the GSC”. This study group aims to consider solutions and strategies to promote international cooperation while utilizing the policy experience and knowledge that Japan has implemented in the country for these issues in the labor field.

According to documents produced by the group, the following contents are shown as issue settings and considerations in building more resilient and sustainable global supply chains: 

  • We emphasize the importance of ensuring human rights, decent work, and protection of the environment in global supply chains. 
  • We will continue to work to ensure respect for human rights and labor and environmental standards, including prohibition of trafficking in persons, and to promote decent work, including through technical cooperation, in our business activities and business-to-business transactions. 
  • As confirmed during the G7 Presidency last year, we will play a key role in achieving better outcomes for people and the planet through a smart mix of mandatory and voluntary measures, including legislation, regulations, incentives and guidance for businesses. We commit to promote decent work in supply chains in line with the authoritative frameworks of the UN, ILO and OECD. 
  • We commit to a coherent and coordinated approach as the G7, consulting closely with all stakeholders and engaging constructively in discussions at the UN and ILO to explore ideas and options for internationally agreed and legally binding measures that are feasible and add value to existing policy approaches. 
  • We reiterate our commitment in the G7 Wolfsburg Declaration of Ministers of Labor and Employment to be prepared to engage constructively in discussions at the UN and ILO. We will also encourage other countries to expand their efforts to promote decent work, including through Alliance 8.7.

Verse Corporation publishes articles on timely issues in Japanese Social Welfare and Labour Law. Japanese payroll, source deductions, and all labor law work & pay rules regarding compensation, social insurance, absenteeism & sick leave, etc. require strict adherence. Labor/employment law can be complex, even for Japanese companies, and must be handled mostly in Japanese. As with all social welfare and labor law matters in Japan, please seek out professional Sharoushi (Certified Labour Law and Social Insurance Attorney.)

Related materials provided by the MHLW from the Group, all in Japanese, are as follows:

Outline of the Event and Group Objectives

Response to International Issues Using Domestic Labor Policies 

Future Plans and Implementation

MHLW Reference Materials on Human Rights in Supply Chains

Japan’s support of improved global workplace rights and conditions is not new, and these new efforts are encouraging.