Mrs. Karen Curtis, Deputy Director of the Labor Standards Department of the International Labor Organization (ILO), gave a special lecture at Chuo University on Oct. 26 in commemoration of the second anniversary of the school’s international cooperation promotion project aimed for cultivation of human resources.
ILO, one of the U.N. organizations, works on international policies and plans for the purpose of promoting fundamental human rights through protection of workers, improvement of labor and living conditions and enhancement of job opportunities. It is a unique tripartite agency made up of the representatives of employers, workers and the government. When policies are formulated and plans are drawn there, both employers and employees who move the economy as social partners have the equal say as the government.
Mrs. Curtis spoke under the title: "The latest examples of success in international labor standards and challenges we face". Using PowerPoint data presentation, she referred to a number of field cases ILO has experienced in the field of international labor standards in recent years, such as surveillance in Myanmar, a maritime labor convention, the organization of a labor union in the Philippine military and an international program for elimination of child labor.
Major challenges ILO addresses above all are elimination of child laborers who exceeds 200 million across the world, gender equality in labor conditions and further promotion of what it calls "decent work." Decent work means labor conditions that enable people to enjoy a human life without interruption. It involves, according to ILO, opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
As direct labor conditions, ILO refers to working hours (per day or per week), wages, paid holidays, the contents of labor, etc. that should not detract human dignity and health. As indirect labor conditions to guarantee them, it calls for the freedom of association, the right of collective bargaining, unemployment insurance, sufficient employment, elimination of employment discrimination and minimum wage (to ensure full protection of workers). In other words, the latter conditions are required to improve and maintain the former direct labor conditions. ILO considers that decent work can be realized when both conditions are met.
Incidentally, Japan has not ratified many conventions that define decent work. It has no legal cap on working hours. Minimum wages in Japan are lower than those in other advanced nations and many workers are not endowed with paid holidays. There still exists unstable and discriminatory labor as exemplified by dispatch workers. Japan definitely needs to review and improve its labor policy.
Written by: Kento Isogai