MP Mr. Jiro Kawasaki, President, Parliamentarians’ League on ILO Activities
Mr. Kawasaki was born in Mie Prefecture in 1947. He graduated from Keio University with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree. In 1980, after several years working at Matsushita Electric, Mr. Kawasaki won a seat in the House of Representatives, representing Mie Prefecture in 1980 and has been elected 12 times since. He served as the Minister of Transportation and later as the Director of the Hokkaido Development Agency. In October of 2005, Mr. Kawasaki was assigned to head the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and served until 2006. He was the Chairman of the Finance Committee for LDP in 2010 and currently serves as a President for more than 10 Parliamentarians’ Leagues including the one on ILO.
* This interview took place in the ILO Office in Hanoi in September 2018.
How did you know the ILO?
I became the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2005. It was around the time when reforms of the healthcare system were introduced including a new healthcare insurance for the elderly. The Ministry focused on pension, healthcare and welfare schemes at that time. However, as the Minister in charge of labour, I pointed out that we needed to work on not just social security, but also on labour-related issues to ensure a balanced commitment between the two areas. Subsequently, I had an opportunity to attend the Labour Ministers’ Meeting that was held in Germany. It was then that I learned about the ILO’s important agenda known as Decent Work. Since then, I have made reference to Decent Work on many different occasions.
What does the ILO do that makes it important in today’s world?
Work-style reform has become a critical topic in Japan. It took about 10 years to focus the spotlight on the importance of a healthy work-style for individuals, which I emphasised when I was the Minister in 2005. Even during my current stay in Vietnam, I just learned about the imperative for labour law reforms in the country, in line with the values of the ILO. I am now going to Cambodia, and I expect that I will see the same situation there. We need to review labour laws of each country in Asia and Africa to ensure the quality people in European countries now have. From this perspective, I feel that Asian countries are still behind, and therefore we need to accelerate our efforts to catch up with the working conditions in Europe.
What would you like the future of work to look like?
In the old days of Japan, when agriculture was the primary industry, workers managed their time, so that they worked from early morning on a hot day, took rest in the afternoon, then worked again during the evening. However, when agriculture was replaced by the secondary industry such as manufacturing, work became managed by other people. That was the era when working hours were managed by senior management or supervisors in factories and offices. While I believe in the importance of each worker’s balance of work and private life, I also feel that there seems to be excessive pressure from the top to follow the idea that work should always be first. I think that one of the tasks for politicians should be to somehow transform such pressure from the top to create the best possible outcome for workers in society.