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Japanese Labour Banks hold International Symposium with ILO

As one of their projects for the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) 2012, the Rokin Association (National Association of Labour Banks) and Kinki Rokin (Kinki Labour Bank) held an international symposium together with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Osaka on November 25 on the theme of "Deteriorating the World of Work ---In Search of a Cure." The symposium was attended by about 400 people from trade unions, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, labour banks, insurance cooperatives, and other groups.
In the symposium, Jose Salazar-Xirinachs, the ILO's executive director for employment, delivered a keynote speech titled "The World at a Crossroads: The employment challenge facing the world today," and President Nobuaki Koga of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) identified present issues and future prospects in a talk on the theme of "Toward a Secure Society Centered on Work as Its Core." This was followed by a discussion between ILO Executive Director Salazar-Xirinachs and RENGO President Koga moderated by Koji Yamamoto, vice-president of Chuo-Rofukukyo (National Council of Workers' Welfare Associations of Japan).
In his speech, ILO Executive Director Salazar-Xirinachs pointed out that although the world economy had once picked up following the "Lehman shock" financial crisis in 2008, it had again slowed down in 2011. In particular, he said, the developed countries were facing a serious job crisis. He stressed that the present was a time of both economic crisis and restructuring and that it was necessary for countries to cooperate and adopt economic recovery measures centered on jobs.
RENGO President Koga commented that economic globalization had led to neoliberal deregulation, especially in the financial market, and the adoption of policies far removed from the real economy. The ILO and trade unions have continued ceaselessly to warn about excessive neoliberalism, he said, and now is the time to emphasize solidarity and mutual aid and to make efforts to realize a society in which people help one another.
In their discussion, Executive Director Salazar-Xirinachs and President Koga shared appraisal of the fact that governments, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank had taken note of the ideas outlined in the "Global Jobs Pact," adopted by the ILO in 2009, and that the World Bank had made job-centered policy recommendations in its World Development Report 2013 issued in October of this year.
Regarding labour banks, which hosted the symposium, Executive Director Salazar-Xirinachs remarked that the ILO had recognized that labour banks, founded as part of the workers' independent welfare movement in Japan, had continued to offer nonprofit and cooperative financial services to workers for more than 60 years, and it had issued a working paper on them in 2011. He said that other countries could learn a great deal from this business model and stressed the need to develop the solidarity economy, noting that in Europe as well cooperative finance had not suffered as much from the Lehman shock as commercial banks. In addition, regarding the "Strategy for the Rebirth of Japan" announced by the Japanese government this year, Executive Director Salazar-Xirinachs commented approvingly that if the strategy is successful, Japan will be able to achieve rebirth.

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