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JTUC-RENGO to Kick Off New Activities to Increase Youth Participation – One Effort to Build a New Style of Labor Movements –


JTUC-RENGO, Japan’s national center for trade unions, confirmed at the meeting of its Central Executive Committee held on June 16 that it will promote new activities to increase the number of young people participating in labor unions. To that end, JTUC-RENGO plans to hold a kickoff event in July after which it will share and spread its approach and initiatives. These new activities are intended to help promote JTUC-RENGO’s policy of “building a new style of movements” adopted at its Biennial Convention held last October by also incorporating youth perspectives.

The kickoff event will be held in Tokyo on July 29. As it will be made open to the public online, a large number of young people, union members, and members of the general public are expected to attend. In addition, approximately 120 youth leaders from industrial unions and local organizations affiliated with JTUC-RENGO are due to be present at the venue. The program is scheduled to start with a message from JTUC-RENGO General Secretary Hideyuki Shimizu, followed by a keynote speech speaking to the need for these new activities as well as a panel discussion.

Japanese trade unions have long focused on young people, establishing “youth clubs” and “youth committees” within their respective organizations and promoting their activities. Such groups were particularly active throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and gave a strong voice to the views and demands of youth at the time. However, companies began to curb hiring as a result of the prolonged economic stagnation that began in the 1990s, and youth involvement in trade unions declined. The rapid graying of Japanese society and its workforce has also diminished young people’s visibility.

In light of this situation, JTUC-RENGO ran a survey of youth 29 years old and under from last year through this year on the need for social movements. The results indicated that about 90% are interested in social issues, including labor issues. Working youth rated long working hours as their top concern, while students were concerned with gender-based discrimination. The survey also showed young people have a strong desire to participate in social movements. It is based on these findings that JTUC-RENGO has decided to promote new activities to help increase youth participation.

Commenting on the significance of this movement, a JTUC-RENGO executive said, “Labor movements have been curtailed as a result of COVID-19, leading to inadequate training of youth leaders as well. With these new activities, we hope to earn the understanding, sympathy, and involvement of young people, the leaders of the next generation, and achieve a labor movement that is sustainable.”