Japan – Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

Chapter 2. Action Plan

1. Fundamental Principles of the NAP

(3) To ensure that business enterprises understand and comply with relevant legislation and policies, it is vital to promote their understanding and awareness of business and human rights. In particular, promoting understanding and awareness among SMEs, which have limited human and physical resources, is critical to increasing the effectiveness of the NAP. (…)


2. Areas of the NAP

(1) Cross-cutting areas

E. Equality before the Law (Persons with Disabilities, Women, Persons of Diverse Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and Other Groups)


(Future measures planned)


(b)Promote employment of persons with disabilities

  • Promote initiatives to increase opportunities for persons with disabilities to play an active role as a measure introduced under the Revised Act on Employment Promotion Etc. of Persons with Disabilities of 2019. As a measure for the public services sector, this includes making it incumbent on persons with appointive power at national and local government agencies to prepare and publish the Guidelines for Formulation of the Plan on Promoting Dynamic Engagement of Persons with Disabilities. As a measure for employers in the private sector, this includes the establishment of an accreditation system for SMEs with excellent initiatives concerning employment of persons with disabilities, and a special benefits system for employers who employ part-time workers whose weekly working hours are within a certain range. [Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare]


(2) Measures of the Government as an Actor regarding State Duty to Protect Human Rights

D. Human Rights Education and Awareness-Raising

(Existing framework/Measures taken)

The Government has developed the Basic Plan on Human Rights Education and Human Rights Awareness Raising pursuant to the Act on the Promotion of Human Rights Education and Human Rights Awareness-Raising (Act No.147 of 2000), based on which it has been promoting various forms of human rights education and awareness-raising. In particular, human rights education and awareness-raising seminars for SMEs have been organized across Japan to broaden awareness of business and human rights among businesses.


(Future measures planned)


(d) Continue awareness-raising seminars for SMEs

  • Continue to implement human rights education and awareness-raising seminars for business enterprises especially targeting SMEs as part of the Support for Human Resources Development in SMEs. [Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry]


(3) Measures of the Government Promoting Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights

A. Measures Related to Domestic and Global Supply Chains and Promotion of Human Rights Due Diligence Based on the UNGPs

(Future measures planned)


(f) Steadily implement the Act on the Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in the Workplace

  • The revised Act was adopted and enacted at the ordinary parliamentary session in 2019 (effective from June 1, 2020). The expansion of the Act’s scope (to be effective from April 1, 2022) included: expansion of the obligation to develop action plans and to have information disclosure for business enterprises employing 101 or more employees, and the obligation to reinforce information disclosure applied to business enterprises employing 301 or more employees. Going forward, disseminate information on the contents of the revision, and provide support for SMEs to develop action plans for smooth implementation of the revised Act. [Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare]


B. Support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) regarding Business and Human Rights

(Existing framework/Measures taken)

SMEs play an important role in Japan’s economy, providing most employment and contributing to local communities and the lives of residents as the key player in society, while also having a role in supply chains. Because SMEs include a wide range of companies in terms of size, sector, and business category, the Government will implement business and human rights efforts with input from the SMEs that reflects the diversity of these enterprises. The Government also recognizes the need to engage in awareness-raising activities to increase understanding and implementation by SMEs, while also being considerate of SMEs’ position in business transactions.


(Future measures planned)

(a) Provide information to SMEs through the portal site on business and human rights

  • Set up a portal site with centralized information related to business and human rights to promote efforts regarding business and human rights made by SMEs. [Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

(b) Conduct seminars targeting SMEs in cooperation with economic organizations and civil society

  • Continue to implement human rights education and awareness-raising seminars for business enterprises targeting SMEs as part of the project called the Support for Human Resources Development in SMEs and enhance understanding for human rights due diligence. [Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry]

(c) Include policies regarding business terms and conditions and improvement of business practices

  • Continue to boost efforts to improve transaction terms and practices to prevent main contractors from forcing subcontractors to absorb their expenses. [Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry]