The ILO and the JCA organize a joint webinar on the social and solidarity economy in Japan

On 16 December, 2021, ILO Office for Japan and the Japan Cooperative Alliance (JCA) co-hosted an online webinar, "TSUNAGARU by the Social and Solidarity Economy”.

News | 20 December 2021
Moderated by Mr. Shinichi Takasaki, Director of ILO Office for Japan, the webinar was attended by nearly 200 people from Japan and abroad. The event started with the screening of an ILO video titled “Exploring Social and Solidarity Economy’s (SSE) Development in Asia” that introduced the ILO's ongoing development cooperation initiatives on the SSE in the region.

Ms. Simel Esim, Manager of the ILO’s Cooperatives Unit, gave a video message at the beginning of the webinar where she introduced the ILO's recent activities on the SSE and the outlook for future activities, including the general discussion on decent work and the SSE that is scheduled to take place at the 110th International Labour Conference (ILC) in 2022.

Simultaneously translated between Japanese and English the joint ILO and JCA event was followed by a presentation by Mr. Jürgen Schwettmann, an ex-officio of the ILO, who provided highlights from the international trends around the SSE. He reflected on the values, principles and organizational forms that fall under the SSE. He provided highlights of how SSE units can help advance decent work and the wider sustainable development agenda.

Prof. Kentaro Itami, Professor of the Hosei University Graduate School for Public Policy and Social Governance, reported on SSE practices in Japan, explaining how the SSE could best be understood and introduced examples of SSE units from Japan. He referred to "Tsunagari(ru)", used in promoting the SSE in Japan. The cooperative movement was developed by connecting people with common needs (bonding), but what is needed for promoting the SSE is to connect organizations and people with differences (bridging). His presentation is available here.

Mr. Yutaka Aotake
At the panel discussion titled "Deepen the Understanding of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) through Community Practices", representatives of SSE units mentioned in Prof. Itami’s keynote speech were the panelists. Ms. Mariko Tokoro, Chairperson of Ohsato Sogo Kanri Corporation, Mr. Yutaka Aotake, Executive Director of the JCA, Ms. Fumiko Kanematsu, Executive Director of Tokushima Council of Workers’ Welfare and Mr. Takahito Tsunemi, Financial Coordinator at the Borderless Japan Corporation.

Ms Mariko Tokoro
Ms. Mariko Tokoro talked about how her real estate agency is involved in community support activities during working hours and how the company uses its office building as a social space for local residents. Mr. Yutaka Aotake reflected on the relationship between cooperatives and the SSE.
Ms Fumiko Kanematsu
Ms. Fumiko Kanematsu explained how her organization provide policy proposals and support for local workers through the cooperation of public and private networks.
Mr Takahito Tsunemi
Mr. Takahito Tsunemi spoke about his company's efforts to increase the number of social businesses by providing support for social entrepreneurs from business start-up to management. He gave the example of the platform "On-okuri Ecosystem," where surplus profits from participating companies are used to fund new social businesses.

A question and answer session followed the panel. The panelists posed questions to each other about each other's organizations and work. Although each one is involved in different activities, the common thread was that they are all working to solve social problems and improve the lives of local people, in cooperation with various partners and related organizations.

During the question and answer session with the participants, a question was asked about the “employment relationship in workers cooperatives” under the new Law on Associated Labor Cooperatives that was adopted in Japan at the end of 2020. Another question was about the future efforts needed to promote the SSE in Japan. A final question asked by the audience was on what is needed in promoting the SSE in Japan.

Mr. Schwettmann wrapped up the event by saying that SSE connects the informal and formal economies, and serves as a bridge between society and the economy, the region and the world, and rural and urban areas. He also expressed his hope that the ILO Constituents in Japan would play a leading role in the General Discussion of the 110th ILC in 2022. His presentation is available here.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Masahiro Higa, Senior Managing Director of the JCA, spoke for the co-organizers, expressing willingness to continue learning from each other about various SSE practices. This event provided an initial opportunity for the participants to learn about the SSE, including through various examples in Japan.

The video of the conference is available here.