The Development of Worker Cooperatives in Japan
iThe World Conference of CICOPA : Oslo, 5th September 2003j

Masazumi Kanno, President, Japan Workersf Cooperative Union

I would like to talk today about the history of worker cooperatives in Japan including the development of worker cooperative standards. I also would like to say a word about the Oslo 2003 declaration.

Introduction: Our Consciousness of Problems in Dealing with Workersf Cooperative Union Activities

Japanese capitalism had already reached the limits of gmass production/mass consumption/mass disposal-typeh industries in the 1970s, becoming increasingly dependent on exports to overseas markets and public finances. Although an abnormal boom was experienced due to bubble-like speculation in the 1980s, the economic bubble burst following the start of the 1990s, and the phase of long-term stagnation began, with no new direction for industrial development in sight. When people who have given up hope for employment are added in, about 10 million people in Japan have either become or are about to become unemployed as a result of this stagnation.

We regard the present circumstances to be a catastrophic result of global capitalism, (incidentally, the Japanese Government, which has single-mindedly pursued globalization, supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq). But we also see it as a period of transfer toward a gstationary economy,h one in which human beings and the environment will be respected, and people should be able to enjoy true wealth.

As such, working jointly with many working people and other citizens, we hope to develop worker cooperatives and to bring about the humanitarian resurrection of labor, enterprises, the industrial structure, the economy and wider social life.

1. Business and Activities of Japan Worker Cooperatives
1) A variety of persons who shoulder management of worker cooperatives
Japanfs worker cooperative activities were started as JIGYODAN (business undertaking groups) for securing the employment of workers in certain areas in the 1970s, and throughout the nation in the 1980s. By 1990, participants had established themselves as gworker cooperatives.h

2) gCommunity Welfare Centerh: Community Care and gCommunity Businessh
Since 1995 Japanese workersf cooperatives have held, in conjunction with Older Personsf Cooperative Unions, courses on care work at 400 places across the nation, fostering a total of 40,000 care workers. Out of these 40,000 people, 4,000 have started to organize gCommunity Welfare Centers,h and currently 200 such enterprises are in existence.
Expanding these establishments to junior high school areas throughout the nation (totaling some 10,000 areas) is the central business strategy of the Japan Workersf Cooperative Union in the years ahead.

The gCommunity Welfare Centersh are designed to engage in the following three kinds of activities:
\\ First of all, there are activities corresponding to gLong-Term Care Insuranceh programs, such as home care, day care, rental of welfare articles, etc. The Japanese government has provided for Long Term Care Insurance programs since 2000.
\\ Second, working in connection with policies of local governments and mutual aid organizations within the Older Personsf Co-operative Unions, these activities will be expanded to a range of gCommunity Careh services. That includes catering, gmini-day service,h health care, etc. The range of care will also be diversified to care for handicapped people and for children.
\\ Third, various kinds of gcommunity businessesh will be developed in local areas, and the Community Welfare Centers will serve as their focal points. These businesses will include house cleaning, gardening, residence repair/housing consultation, collective housing, distribution of care/living articles, transport service/care taxis, cultural events, and the like.
2. Practice of gAssociated Workh and Heightening of Social Recognition
1) Establishment of gassociated workh and management through gCommunity Careh and gCommunity Businessh
Efforts for gCommunity Careh and gCommunity Businessh based on gCommunity Welfare Centersh have brought about the following new efforts in the worker cooperative movement:
* Centered on women, the development of self-initiative based work and management have begun. These efforts are designed to jointly amass funds, to open offices, to organize users to put management on a stabilized track, to study actual methods for the gcare to make users livelyh as a team, to expand such activities to gmini-day servicesh, and to continue to use the fruits of their work and business achievements for the establishment of other gCommunity Welfare Centers," while leaving some surplus in funds.

A new image of care, based on the participation and collaboration of users and local people, has been created. Furthermore, cases of usersf and local peoplef cooperation with management through capital contribution, volunteer activities, and supply of facilities have increased.

Through the expansion of such practices, we have re-shaped the concept of gassociated workh in the social cooperative relationship. Namely, we have reached the conclusion that cooperative work: (1) starts when workers make their own capital contribution, share managerial responsibility, and begin work that is useful to the people and the local community; (2) promotes the participation of users in, and collaboration with, work creation, thereby developing cooperative relations among users; and (3) expands cooperation among people in the entire area, involving three layers of cooperation: cooperation among working people, cooperation with users, and cooperation in the community.

2) New partnership with local government under the gproposal method.h
In entrusting work to the private sector, local governments are increasingly adopting the proposal formula. In this formula, government partnership decisions are made by a consideration of the content of the plan and philosophy of the enterprise concerned, in addition to considering prices in competitive bidding. Under such a situation, worker cooperatives are receiving a growing number of orders. This development is particularly prominent in the area of regeneration of communities based on the axis of welfare and self-support by people of all generations and of job creation in the community.

3) New direction of the gemployment creationh policy inaugurated by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced the gFirst Report of the Employment Creation Planning Conferenceh in May of this year, which described the following work-creation outlook and direction:
– The sectors expected to create employment in the future are the gCommunity Businesses,h which refers to small-scale businesses created mainly by local residents in response to local needs, such as welfare, care, education, culture and environmental protection.
– The actors of gCommunity Businessh are assumed to be gNPOs, worker co-operatives and community-based corporations.
3 Legislation of Worker Cooperatives

Because there are no worker cooperative laws in Japan, the Japan Workersf Cooperative Union has been lobbying for appropriate legislation.

Under the proposed bill by the Japan Workersf Cooperative Union, requirements for worker coops would be as follows:

(1) A cooperative shall be designed gfor working people and citizens to create work useful to both the people and the community, and to expand the workplace, based on their own initiatives.h (Purpose requirement)

(2) A cooperative shall make capital contribution, labor and management a gtriumvirateh matter. Persons who have the desire and ability to work should establish a cooperative by making a capital contribution, and not only engage in work at the cooperative thus founded, but also jointly implement the management and operation of the cooperative. With regard to the distribution of the surplus and the transfer of the surplus to provisions, etc., they must also arrange for decisions at a general meeting of cooperative members. (Organizational requirement)

(3) Cooperative members shall be made up mainly of workers actively engaged in work. In addition, to enable the cooperative to start the work required in the area concerned, it shall be possible for citizens supporting the business purpose and for capital contributors, including local governing bodies, to become members of the cooperative. (Cooperative member requirements)

(4) In order to contribute toward the expansion of working opportunities, education and training, and mutual aid and community well-being, the cooperative shall accumulate an indivisible reserve and a not-for-profit cooperative fund using part of the surplus, and manage and operate the fund. (Social requirement)
Thus, worker cooperatives are a historical movement that changes labour into an autonomous social force that re-integrates ownership, management and work through workersf initiative, and extends cooperative relations among workers, users and other citizens.

Lastly, I would like to say a word about adopting the Oslo Declaration 2003. We cannot agree to adopt the Oslo Declaration at this conference for the following reasons:

1. There is not enough time for us to discuss these documents right now.
2. In the Declaration, we should focus more on how we really contribute to job creation and community development.
3. We do not all yet agree with the concept of cooperative employee ownership, so we need more time to discuss this issue.
4. In the near future, CICOPA needs to be more concerned about social cooperatives, participative enterprises, etc. Therefore, we need to pay more attention to these kinds of movements for developing workersf cooperatives.
Finally, I am sure other cooperatives in Japan?such as consumer and agriculture co-ops?do not agree right now that their workers should become worker-members. I think we should not condemn their policies. Rather, we should maintain our relationships with them for the purpose of expanding and making a stronger cooperative movement.

In conclusion, I think that it is too early to adopt the Declaration at this moment. We should have more time to discuss it and aim for wider agreement at the next CICOPA executive committee. If we take the time to do this, I believe that we shall end up in agreement with a truly historical Declaration.

Japan Institute of Cooperative Research