On the occasion of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group, which took place in Tokyo October 9-14, 2012, RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) held a symposium on the global economy in Tokyo on October 10. About 150 people from RENGO affiliates and related organizations attended the symposium, as well as representatives from the IMF, the World Bank, and international trade union organizations.
This was the second time for the Annual Meetings of the IMF-World Bank Group to be held in Tokyo, the first meetings in Japan having been in 1964. In addition, this year marks the 60th anniversary of Japan's membership of the IMF and the World Bank.
Both the IMF and the World Bank have come to focus their attention on creating jobs. The World Bank presented its "World Development Report," focusing on employment, to the Annual Meetings, and the IMF has stressed the need for economic recovery accompanied by job creation to tackle such issues as the financial crisis in Europe. It was against this background that RENGO, with the cooperation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), organized the symposium on the theme of "An equitable and sustainable exit from economic crisis: How can the IMF and the World Bank contribute to a job-rich global econmy?"
At the beginning of the symposium, RENGO President Nobuaki Koga addressed the audience, saying that "Excessive neoliberalism has exerted a serious impact, including the destruction of communities. RENGO is devoting its utmost efforts toward reconstruction and revival from the Great East Japan Earthquake and seeks to realize a 'secure society built around work as its core.' Today's symposium will be extremely helpful for us in thinking about the economic model that Japan should follow."
Representing the ITUC, General Secretary Sharan Burrow then pointed out that the present society has fallen into a dangerously unequal state and it was necessary for employers and workers to continue discussions on the distribution of wealth.
Following a speech by IMF Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara, State for National Policy Minister Seiji Maehara, representing the Japanese government, then addressed the audience and explained the government's "Strategy for Rebirth of Japan: Overcoming crises and embarking on new frontiers." National Policy Minister Maehara emphasized that the government would take the lead and compile the budgets required to carry through this strategy, including efforts to restore a solid class of middle-income earners through the creation of jobs.
Then, following a speech by Mr. Martin Rama, director of WDR2013: jobs at the World Bank, Mr. Peter Bakvis, director of ITUC/Global Unions - Washington Office, moderated a panel discussion on the themes of (1) the present state of the world economy and its analysis, (2) the scenario to get out of the crisis, and (3) the importance of economic recovery and economic growth accompanied by high-quality employment. The other panelists were Mr. Prakash Loungani, Advisor/senior personnel and budget manager of the IMF's Research Department; Mr. Stephen Pursey, director of the Policy Integration Department/Senior Advisor to the Director-General of the International Labour Organization;, Mr. Noriyuki Suzuki, general secretary of ITUC Asia-Pacific; and Mr. Chihiro Kawashima, executive director of the Economic and Social Policy Department of RENGO.
In the discussion, the labour-side panelists expressed such opinions as "The expansion of domestic demand should be placed at the center of economic policy," "The restraint on labour's share is having an adverse effect on the economy," and "It is refreshing that the World Bank has placed importance on employment and ranked employment as a part of the development process." In response, Mr. Rama of the World Bank said that the World Bank does not deny the idea of decent work and regards employment policy as important. Mr. Loungani of the IMF added that labour and management share many common points in their views of economic policy. There was a common recognition in the symposium of the importance of continuous dialogue toward the solution of social issues.