Akiko’s Blog No.45 “Towards the future of work inclusive of persons with disabilities” 

The ILO centenary, as well as G20  ministerial meetings and TICAD —several major conferences Japan hosted—, is now behind us. The year 2019, for which rei was chosen as the kanji (Chinese character) of the year, saw various auspicious events such as the ascension of the new emperor and the Rugby World Cup, but also had more share of natural disasters than usual. I offer my sincerest condolences, and I pray so that people who underwent those hardships may regain normality as soon as possible.

Japan’s fiscal year starts in April and ends in March. The government finalizes next year’s budget bill in late December every year, which is submitted to the ordinary session of the Diet held after the new-year holidays. The Cabinet decided on the final draft for FY 2020 on 20 December; the general account budget totalled 102.6580 trillion JPY, another record high, surpassing the initial budget for FY 2019 by 1.2009 trillion JPY. This includes Japan’s assessed contribution to the ILO. Headquarters for Social Security System Reform decided on its policies for expansion and stabilization of social securities for FY 2020 on the same day.  The babies born in Japan were estimated to be 864,000 this year, fewer than 900,000.

The ILO presented the ‘Climate Action for Jobs Initiative’ with the UN Secretary-General at the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25), held this month in Madrid, Spain. 18 December is International Immigrant Day; migrant workers amount to 16.4 million globally. The ILO works to maximize the benefits migrant workers bring to all stakeholders. We will have an award ceremony next month as a paper on accepting migrant workers as ageing Japan’s solution for labour shortage was chosen as one of the winners of the ILO Global Media Competition on Labour Migration.

I had an opportunity to talk about the ILO’s work on ageing society at the 17th ASEAN & Japan High Level Officials Meeting on Caring Societies held in Nagoya. I also wrote an essay for the winter issue of a quarterly called ‘Kikan-Rodoho (Labour Act quarterly)’, which featured the ILO Centenary: its role and prospect, along with current and former colleagues. Another piece of news is we released a leaflet on the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work Convention. Hopefully, many people will download it.
We have information about ILO expert positions available throughout the world. Do take a look and apply!

We will have a look at “Making the future of work inclusive of people with disabilities”, released in November, as we had the International Day of People with Disabilities on 9 December. It consists of three chapters; outlining the current situation surrounding work and disabilities in the first chapter, it goes on to analyse key megatrends related to the future of work, such as technological and skill innovations, and cultural, demographic and climate change from the perspective of disability, followed by a proposed roadmap for the inclusive future of work.

Persons with disabilities, estimated to be one billion around the globe, have low employment rates, while facing high risks of poverty and social exclusion. The employment rates of working-age people with disabilities are 36 % on average, while the average global employment rate of the general population is 60 %. On the other hand, their annual disposable income as consumers exceeds 1.2 trillion USD; it is expected that the markets of goods and services targeted at people with disabilities will grow as societies age.

The report was compiled for the transnational initiative Disability Hub Europe for Sustainable Growth and Social Innovation (Disability Hub Europe), by the ILO Global Business and Disability Network in collaboration with Fundación ONCE, and KPMG Spain acting as Technical Secretariat for Disability Hub Europe. It points out new megatrends that are changing the world of work through revolutions in science and technology, skills, and cultural, demographic and climate change come with a baggage of considerable issues, despite having the potential to improve the quality of work and life. “The consequences of [these trends are] unclear, but the rise in inequality and the effects on those more disadvantageous sectors of society, such as persons with disabilities, are a matter of concern….and a growing strategic risk,” the study notes, insisting that we need a new roadmap if persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups are to benefit from these changes. 

The report lists five key objectives that are vital to including people with disabilities in the future of work.

1. New forms of employment and employment relations must integrate disability inclusion;
2. Skills development and lifelong learning must be inclusive;
3. New infrastructure, products and services must follow the principles of Universal Design (meaning they can be accessed, understood and used by all);
4. Assistive technologies must be affordable and available; and
5. More measures to include persons with disabilities in growing and developing areas of the economy are needed.

The publication further mentions that social protection systems are key complements to achieve the inclusive future. The study also refers to the human-centred future of work initiative, propagated by the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work adopted at the 108th ILC this June, which explicitly notes the need to ensure equal opportunities and equal treatment for people with disabilities.

The coming year, the year of Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, will be another milestone year as we celebrate the UN 75th anniversary, and the ILO COOP centenary. Mice are featured often in Japan now, as we approach the year of the mouse. As a cat person, however, I wouldn't mind if they were all replaced by cats. Thank you for following Akiko’s Blog, tweets from the official Twitter account of the ILO Office for Japan, and our interns’ tweets, Facebook page, and blogs. Have a great new year!