Leading Industrialized Countries Team

Scene of the international symposium

A total of four persons (of whom three were women) from two countries (Germany and the United States) visited Japan from September 24 to October 1, and the team successfully completed the entire program as scheduled.

Unlike JILAF’s usual invitation teams, this team consisted of trade union leaders from advanced IoT (Internet of Things) countries with a deep insight into industrial relations, the fourth industrial revolution, and other topics. An important objective of the program was to share information about the issues confronting their countries and social trends there.

The program centered on an international symposium titled “The Employment and Labour Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Related Issues.” This symposium was also attended by representatives of employers in the countries concerned and others, so lively, two-way discussions took place.

In a lecture on the role and issues of Japan’s labour movement, the invited participants deepened their understanding of the transformation of trade unions in postwar Japan, their social and economic contributions, the annual spring labour struggle, and other topics, gaining a general view of the situation of workers in Japan and the issues facing them. They endeavored to gain an overall understanding of the labour situation in Japan and showed much interest especially in the annual spring labour struggle, the main reasons for the wage gap between regular and nonregular workers, and efforts to assist nonregular workers.

In their visit to the RENGO Research Institute for Advancement of Living Standards (RENGO-RIALS), the participants engaged in discussions mainly on the topic of “research on the diffusion of IoT and artificial intelligence and ways of working.” In the establishment of research groups, it was explained, RENGO-RIALS is advancing surveys and research relating to the impact on workplaces and industrial relations and related issues and how trade unions should respond. In response, discussions took place on such common issues as whether consideration is being given to new qualifications and skills made necessary by the diffusion of AI and whether the Industry 4.0 initiative should be seen as the evolution of technology or a new structural change.

In their visit to RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), the participants received a welcoming address from General Secretary Naoto Oumi and then heard lectures from Koji Suzuki, head of the Department of International Affairs, on RENGO and Chihiro Kawashima from the Department of Economic and Social Policy on RENGO’s efforts relating to employment and labour issues brought about by the fourth industrial revolution. The participants asked questions on such topics as the criteria for RENGO’s selection of countries to receive overseas assistance, technical education for elderly workers, and its utilization of big data, to which RENGO replied with supplementary information on its policies and activities.

In their visit to the Japan Productivity Center, the participants received lectures on such topics as the three guiding principles of productivity, Japanese-style industrial relations, and future issues. Once again they were made aware of the contribution of Japanese trade unions to productivity improvement, the fact that the three guiding principles are meaningless unless they are observed by the government, labour, and employers, and especially the latter, and the effectiveness of the labour-management consultation system.
Titled “The Employment and Labour Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Related Issues,” the international symposium was attended by 102 people (67 from trade unions, 6 from the government, 4 from employers’ organizations, etc., 2 from nongovernmental organizations, 18 from JILAF, and 5 members of the public). The invited participants gave country reports and also took part as panelists, with all of them making positive statements and joining in the discussions.

Specifically, Ken Yamazaki, a senior researcher at the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, gave a keynote speech, which was followed by country reports and a panel discussion in which JILAF Executive Director Takao Yasunaga also took part. Information was shared with the floor about the situation in the three countries concerned (including Japan) and related issues. (See the attached results of a questionnaire completed by symposium participants.)

A special feature of this symposium was the participation of representatives from not only labour but also management. As a result, there were lively discussions and many suggestive questions and answers on the role and responsibilities of labour and management that took account of the situation on both sides.

In their workplace visit, the invited participants went to Joho Roren (Federation of Information and Communication Technology Service Workers of Japan), where they received a welcoming address from Executive Committee Chairman Minao Noda, heard about Joho Roren’s profile and activities, and then engaged in discussions on the theme of “trade unions and their use of social network services in the future,” which is seen as an important pillar in the response of trade unions to the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on employment. As, among other factors, the United States and Germany are taking the lead in respect to platforms for cloud workers, the discussions were very meaningful for both sides.

In a lecture by Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the participants heard an explanation of industrial relations from the perspective of employers and engaged in discussions on trade unions and employers’ organizations in the countries concerned. Asking many lively questions, they once again felt the importance of coordination between labour and management.

Finally, the participants proposed action plans, which included the following main points:

(1) “Germany and Japan are facing the same issues regarding Industry 4.0. Since cooperation among globalized trade unions is essential, I want to strengthen solidarity and spread the wage struggle (annual spring labour struggle).” (Germany)
(2) “The fair distribution of profits, which is cited in the three guiding principles of productivity, should be continued. As a result of the improvement of productivity due to the development of AI and IT, people will have the chance to spend time in more creative fields. I want to respond flexibly to the everchanging conditions.” (United States)
(3) “Since it is not clear in which sectors the fourth industrial revolution will advance, it will be necessary to make adjustments in the fair distribution, reasonable wages, and organization obtained from the revolutions so far. I will pay close attention to organization on the Internet and the organization of communities, such as cloud workers.” (Germany)

List of Cooperating Organizations

RENGO-RIALSJoho Roren
Japan Productivity CenterNippon Keidanren

Many thanks to everyone.

Photos of the Participants

Visit to RENGO-RIALS

Visit to Joho Roren

Visit to the Japan Productivity Center