1

The basic meaning of「厚」is thick, large, deep, strong. I also found the meaning kind, cordial. However I wonder why it is at the beginning of the compound「厚生労働省」.

3

As a prior answer points out, 厚生 means "welfare". I'd like to add some sources to that, because I can see where you may have been stuck: how is "thick" related to "welfare", right?

精選版 日本国語大辞典:

〘名〙 (「厚」は加える、強くするの意)
① くらしを健康で豊かにすること。古くは政治を行なう人が人民の生活を豊かにすることをいう。
※古文真宝笑雲抄(1525)五「福与二恩沢一也。富貴な人は厚生したばかりぞ」 〔書経‐大禹謨〕

If you see the bolded part, the kanji 厚 here brings in the idea of to add/increase, and to make stronger. That's where the sense of "welfare" and "better quality of life" comes in.

This can be further adumbrated by this definition found on Wiktionary, the key words 豊か, 増進する:

厚 生(こうせい)
生活を豊かにし、健康を守り増進すること。

Note that the adjective 厚い is related to this usage:

jisho.org

abundant (​Only applies to 厚い)

デジタル大辞泉(小学館)

富んでいる。金持ちだ。
「至って―・き御身上の御方はいかが侍らん」〈仮・東海道名所記・六〉

2
  • 1
    It seems the word 厚生 itself was taken from a passage in 書経. [reference]
    – aguijonazo
    Nov 19 '21 at 6:19
  • 1
    @aguijonazo Interesting! Thanks for that. I found the original source from which the word was taken 「於!帝念哉!德惟善政,政在養民。水、火、金、木、土、穀,惟修;正德、利用、厚生、惟和。九功惟敘,九敘惟歌。戒之用休,董之用威,勸之以九歌俾勿壞。」《尚書/大禹謨》 From what I understand, all those four words in that parallel structure follow a verb-noun pattern. So 厚 appears to be a verb in its original sense...
    – Eddie Kal
    Nov 19 '21 at 6:30
-2

It's merely a component of the word 厚生, which means "welfare".

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