Labour 20 initiatives for Osaka
G20 Summit

Labour 20 initiatives for Osaka

Ahead of the G20 Osaka Summit and the L20 summit, to be held in August, Rikio Kozu, chair of the L20 Japan, charts the work of the organisation to improve the lives of workers


The G20 summits started in 2008 with the aim of restoring the world economy following its dramatic downturn in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. In the 1990s, economic globalisation had tied countries’ economies closely and mutually. The effects of the downturn of the global economy were particularly severe for working people. Operating results deteriorated among many Japanese firms as they suffered declining exports due to reduced demand from overseas and rapid currency appreciation. This led companies to terminate employment contracts for temporary workers one after another in quick succession, threatening the livelihoods of many.

Against such a backdrop, the L20 launched as a G20 engagement group that united the world’s workers to demand a reappraisal of prevailing neoliberal economic policies and the development of a society that allows people to work in decent conditions. L20 summits call on national leaders to reflect workers’ opinions regarding the world economy and employment in their policies – and tripartism that involves the essential participation of not only governments but also workers and employers in tackling the challenges.

At the 2017 G20 Hamburg Summit, the leaders affirmed their commitment to achieving sustainable global supply chains by fostering the implementation of labour, social, and environmental standards and human rights in line with internationally recognised frameworks, such as those of the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights and the International Labour Organization’s tripartite declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy. Policy proposals from the perspective of workers, achieved through social dialogue, were included in G20 discussions, as well as in the leaders’ declaration.

A new era for workers’ rights

Under Japan’s G20 presidency, the labour and employment ministers will meet in September, after their leaders meet at Osaka. In March, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (RENGO) and leaders from international trade union organisations including the International Trade Union Confederation delivered a policy paper to Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, in the form of a trade union statement, and Abe engaged in social dialogue with us.

The trade union statement comprised six key pillars: promoting decent work; further promoting gender equality; achieving a just transition to a carbon-neutral economy; guaranteeing that technological innovation benefits all; eliminating tax evasion, avoidance and tax dumping; and reinforcing the global trading system.

Abe indicated his understanding of the importance of such issues and stated that he would present a clear message to the international community with a view to finding solutions to the issues identified.

The L20 summit will be held in August as a precursor to the labour and employment ministerial meeting. It will address the promotion of decent work and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, digitalisation, the Universal Labour Guarantee, gender equality, eradication of violence in the world of work, demographic changes, supply chains, and climate change and a just transition.

Throughout the international community, many workers still have no choice but to labour under harsh working conditions. To establish more decent conditions throughout entire supply chains is a pressing issue. Structural changes in industry as a result of digitalisation and climate change affect workers irrespective of their nationality. For that reason, it is extremely significant that the heads of state and government and their ministers of labour are participating in these discussions and engaging in social dialogue.

The year 2019, in which Japan is hosting the G20, is also the landmark year of the International Labour Organization’s centenary. As described in the report by the Global Commission on the Future of Work, the world of work is changing, and dealing with the changes will require reinvigorating the social contract that links government, workers and employers through social dialogue. As trade unions, we will continue implementing such initiatives to improve society.