This is an update to Verse’s September 2023 article where we introduced some of the important developments by the MHLW (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare), so critical to Japan adhering to GSC (Global Supply Chain) worker rights, globally. Here, though, the study group focussed on improvements to Japan’s domestic worker human rights. One aspect is the growing role of what is called “Sharoushi” – Japan’s Labor Law & Social Attorneys in Global Worker rights reform.
Japan held its 7th Study Group on Responding to International Issues Using Policy Means in the Field of Labor in Japan. This article summarizes the main areas addressed, in this ongoing process of review and improvement of worker rights and working conditions in Japan.
The MHLW’s November 16th, 202 report can be found here – note that the website and the published document are both in Japanese:
The report identifies six important “measures based on the challenges in the labor field that companies have in promoting efforts to respect human rights,”
1. Utilization of policy experience and knowledge that has been implemented in Japan so far
- Promotion of labor-management dialogue using safety and health committees, etc.
- Utilization of teaching materials related to safety and health education for foreign workers
2 Dissemination of international standards for companies, etc.
- Principles and basic treaties on the basic rights of ILO workers
- Pro awareness of international standards for employees within the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare related to business and human rights
3 International technical cooperation project
- Technical cooperation business
- Grass root support
- Promotion of labor-management dialogue
- Introduction of the social insurance labor consultant system*
4 Collection of information from overseas, sharing and utilization of knowledge
- Collection and utilization of information on efforts of developed countries, etc.
- Continuation of information collection
- Collecting information and sharing knowledge in countries and regions where Japanese companies are expanding
5 Cooperation with labor-management organizations
- Cooperation with labor unions
- Cooperation with user organizations
- Consideration for ratification of the ILO Basic Treaty
*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.)
These are selected areas of focus – just for reference – for which greater detail can be found in the report itself.
In recent years, the movement to demand respect for human rights from companies has accelerated in response to growing social demands for respect for human rights internationally, and efforts to respect human rights are beginning to spread among Japanese companies as well.
In the midst of these trends, the May 2023 G7 Hiroshima Summit Leaders’ Communiqué
The GSC will also ensure respect for international labor standards and human rights, particularly the fundamental conventions adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO), and promote decent work in line with the SDG goals, including through technical cooperation.
The “Guidelines for Respect for Human Rights in the Supply Chain, etc.” (hereinafter referred to as the “Guidelines”) were formulated. However, there is a lack of understanding of the specific details to be respected when Japanese companies take action in accordance with the Guidelines in the GSC.
The GSC has compiled a number of key documents, including the Action Plan on Business and Human Rights and Guidelines for Respect for Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains.
The MHLW administration has been working on the cross-cutting issues* of the “Action Plan on Business and Human Rights” in Japan.
The MHLW is now required to provide support to companies by utilizing its specific domestic policy knowledge and experience. The MHLW is also working to promote “decent work,” “strengthening of anti-harassment measures,” “protection and respect for workers’ rights,” and “support for workers with disabilities. Promotion of Decent Work,” “Strengthening Anti-Harassment Measures,” “Protection and Respect for Workers’ Rights,” “Promotion of Employment of People with Disabilities,” “Promotion of Women in the Workplace,” “Equal Treatment in Employment,” etc. equal treatment in the field of employment, etc.
Focus on the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
The MHLW’s past efforts to comply with laws and regulations and to prevent industrial accidents in Japan can also serve as a reference when companies promote respect for human rights in the labor field overseas.
- If any questions arise from the perspective of “business and human rights” overseas, or if information on local laws and regulations or local practices is needed, it is important to consider how to utilize the capabilities of each “business and human rights” stakeholder,
- In addition to the support currently provided by JETRO and other organizations, there are other sources of information and consultation in foreign countries.
- Specific Measures to Promote Efforts Related to Business and Human Rights. It is useful, not only from the perspective of preventing industrial accidents but also from the perspective of promoting labor-management dialogue, to have a built-in mechanism to promote human rights in the company’s business activities.
- Consider utilizing the knowledge of safety and health education and training conducted by the Central Industrial Accident Prevention Association for foreign workers.
- Regarding International training programs for companies, etc, publicize international standards to companies, etc.
ILO Principles and Fundamental Conventions on Fundamental Rights of Workers
It is desirable to have introductory and easy-to-understand educational materials on international labor standards that companies should respect.
International Technical Cooperation;
- Collection and utilization of information on initiatives in advanced countries, etc.
- In addition to collecting and providing information on legal systems in Europe and the U.S., etc., and taking into account the efforts of suppliers in the U.S. and Europe, etc. The “Japan-US Technical Cooperation Program” is a project to promote the development of technical cooperation in the US and Europe.
- Continuation of information collection
- The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in each country and support needed by companies that have set up operations should be promoted.
- In addition to understanding the situation in countries where many Japanese companies have advanced, and promoting the support required by Japanese associations of commerce and industry in those countries, etc., Japanese companies should also be promoted.
For countries that have not yet ratified the ILO Basic Conventions, Japan should share its knowledge and experience toward ratification.
- Trade unions are important stakeholders in the field of business and human rights, and their activities contribute to corporate efforts to respect human rights.
- Therefore, trade unions should cooperate with central organizations of trade unions and industrial federations to promote their efforts to inform trade unionists in Japan and abroad and to implement their initiatives.
The Japanese companies should cooperate to collect information necessary to promote business initiatives, such as issues that companies are facing.
- In light of the fact that there are examples of Japanese companies taking the same level of occupational accident prevention measures at their overseas locations as in Japan, the practices of these individual companies should be taken into account.
- In light of the fact that there are examples of Japanese companies taking the same level of occupational accident prevention measures at their overseas locations as in Japan, it is recommended that the cooperation of employers in Japan and overseas be expanded to include contributions that will lead to improved measures not only at the company itself but also at other companies overseas.
Consideration toward ratification of ILO Basic Conventions
- Japan has not ratified some of the ILO Fundamental Conventions, and consideration should be given to ratifying those that have not yet been ratified.
This is an update to Verse’s September 2023 article where we introduced some of the important developments by the MHLW (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare), so critical to Japan adhering to GSC (Global Supply Chain) worker rights, globally. Here, though, the study group focussed on i improvements to Japan’s domestic worker human rights. One aspect is the growing role of what is called “Sharoushi” – Japan’s Labor Law & Social Attorneys in Global Worker rights reform.