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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 10 - 16  > Japan reluctant to ratify ILO conventions
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2019 April 10 - 16 [LABOR]

Japan reluctant to ratify ILO conventions

April 11, 2019
On April 11, the International Labor Organization celebrated its 100th founding anniversary. ILO conventions and recommendations have been playing a leading role in promoting international labor standards protecting workers’ human rights and eliminating poverty and social inequalities. However, Japan has ratified only a small number of ILO conventions and Japan’s position is called into question.

The Japanese government so far ratified 49 of 187 ILO conventions, far below the average of ratifications by developed countries among ILO member states. At the same time, Japan has been turning its back on all ILO conventions on workhour rules, such as the No.1 Convention stipulating the eight-hour work day. The reason for Japan’s unwillingness to sign the No.1 Convention is that the government-set upper limit on overtime exceeds the ILO standards.

More importantly, Japan has not ratified two key ILO conventions. They are the No.105 convention on the abolition of forced labor and the No.111 convention on the elimination of discrimination in the field of employment and occupation. Together with these two accords, the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention (No.87) comprises the “eight fundamental ILO conventions” which the ILO requires all member nations to approve.

Japan ratified Convention 87, but it has received admonitions from the ILO many times on the grounds that the limitation on public workers’ labor rights, including the right to organize, constitutes a violation of the convention.

The ILO was set up in April 1919 in the midst of global efforts to establish a peace regime after WWI. The ILO Constitution in the preamble states, “Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice,” and seeks to provide “human conditions of labor” to all women and men. This ILO position reflected the impact of the 1917 Russian Revolution which introduced the working time limit of eight hours per day.

Currently, the ILO has 187 member states. The ILO is distinguished from other UN agencies with its well-known tripartite structure consisting of representatives of governments, employers, and workers from the member states. The ILO has a system for constant monitoring of the implementation of ILO conventions and recommendations by state parties.

Past related articles:
> ILO advises Japan to grant basic labor rights to government employees [June 15, 2018]
> Japan lags behind international community in gender equality [March 6, 2018]
> PM Abe’s panel on labor law revision ignores ILO principle of tripartite consultation [September 28, 2016]
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