The 33rd Symposium on international labour issues

Report of Symposium: Toward a better future of work after the COVID-19 crisis – Sectoral response and social dialogue

News | 03 December 2020
On 2 December 2020, the ILO Office for Japan organized a virtual event, the “33rd Symposium on International Labour Issues” with 160 participants, in collaboration with the Ohara Institute of Social Studies, Hosei University to discuss how we can act to build better future of work in the face of COVID-19.  Presentations from the tripartite constituents’ and an academic points of view provided insight into sectoral responses to the COVID-19 crisis and social dialogue, with a particular focus on the garment sector.

In July this year, the ILO held a virtual Global Summit on COVID-19 and the world of work, where global leaders and tripartite constituents of the member states expressed their commitment to create better world of work together. In her message to the symposium, Ms. Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, Regional Director for ILO Office for Asia and the Pacific said that the symposium would provide with the first opportunity to discuss how we can build back better in Japan.   Click HERE for her message video (short version, subtitled in English)

One of the ILO's analyses of the impact of COVID-19 in the world of work is the ILO Sectoral Briefs which summarize the sectoral global responses by various industries.  In his keynote speech, Mr. Akira ISAWA, Former Deputy Director, Sectoral Policies Department (SECTOR), ILO HQ stated that it was important to discuss measures taking into account the characteristics of each sector and to implement them in each industry.  “The discussions of employers’ and workers’ organizations at global level to cope with this global crisis need to be linked to invigorating social dialogue at national level,” he said.

Ms. Minako YOSHIKAWA, General Manager, CSR Sustainability Department, ASICS Corporation, which is working in partnership with the ILO's Better Work Programme, gave a report, from a perspective as an endorsing organization of the "Call to Action,” a global action in the garment industry.  “This global action forms international and national working groups.  We collaborate with partners and enterprises, and aim to ensure business continuity for our suppliers through transparent social dialogue with factories,” she said.

Ms. Akiko GONO, Adviser UA ZENSEN (The Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial, Service and General Workers’ Unions) / General Secretary, IndustriALL Japan Liaison Council, introduced a good practice in Indonesia in responding to the crisis with labour-management agreement at national level.  She expressed her hope that multinational enterprises and the trade unions in Japan will further make efforts to fulfil their responsibilities to protect the rights of workers in their supply chains.  "If enterprises continue responsible purchasing practices, it would assist suppliers in fulfilling their social responsibilities,” she said.

“It is the role of the government to make and implement employment and labour policies, based on social dialogue. In order to build a better future of work, it is important, such as to support companies that are reconstructing their businesses towards a ‘new normal’,” said Mr. Masaaki IUCHI, Senior Assistant Minister, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Taking into account the global commitment to solidarity for fair recovery, “Japan will support countries affected by COVID-19 through the ILO's development cooperation programmes with respect to their needs,” he said.
"The symposium provided an opportunity to consider the global impact of the COVID-19 in Japan," said Dr. Keisuke NAKAMURA, Professor, Institute for Solidarity-based Society, Hosei University.  “What we can learn from global initiatives is that, each sector is facing different challenges; workers’ and employers’ organizations’ collaborative efforts to address problems would bring an effective result; and we need to care for vulnerable groups of workers.  To fight against the current COVID-19 and to prepare for the future crises, how can Japan contribute to the world?” Dr. Nakamura posed a question.

Throughout the discussion, it became clear that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to light problems that had already existed, but were previously addressed inadequately. For example, vulnerable groups such as informal workers, youth, women, and migrant workers, have been disproportionally affected. In order to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and to realize “build back better,” it is necessary to extend social security system and to take flexible measures that are specific to the characteristics of each sector.  In order to achieve that goal, social dialogue is an indispensable tool.  These efforts would help accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was also reaffirmed that the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted at last year's International Labour Conference, would become a relevant asset to address the challenges, and in conclusion, the Symposium emphasized the importance of having positive dialogues among tripartite constituents and the stakeholders.

A report of this symposium will be published in the Ohara Institute of Social Studies Journal, the issue of April 2021. (Japanese)  Back issues are available HERE.