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Messages from "Economic Trend", November 2005

Thoughts on the Balance Between Work and Life

Morio Ikeda
Vice Chairmen of the Board of Councillors, Nippon Keidanren
Chairman of the Board, Shiseido Co., Ltd.

The destruction of our invaluable natural environment, abnormal weather conditions, the increasing number of young people involved in heinous crimes, the high suicide rate, continuing instances of corporate misconduct ... The world today appears to be moving in completely the opposite direction from the spiritually enriching and blissful society that we hope for.

One of the reasons for this, I believe, is because Japan -- a country that survived a dire shortage of goods after the war before pursing material prosperity in tandem with striving to catch up with and surpass the U.S. and Europe -- placed economic advancement above all other values. The country expanded its facilities, increased productivity and stimulated consumers' material desires. The mass-consumption society has come to the conclusion that "Consumption is a virtue."

"Chisoku" is a word that comes from Taoism. It teaches people to "learn to suffice," that is to say, those who feel they are sufficient are rich even if they are poor; those who do not feel they have enough are poor even if they are rich. Material wealth does not bring happiness. This is a teaching that we must now ponder very carefully.

We should have already started breaking away from the cycle of mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal which took place in the 20th century. We must once again build a sense of reverence for nature, an appreciation of goods and compassion toward others. These are the fundamental values of a human being.

The era of "quantitative expansion and growth" is over. In the 21st century, we must bring about "qualitative development" which places importance on human nature and society must respect individuals' uniqueness and diversity." In other words, everyone should "work" by remaining involved in society and should "live" by placing the utmost importance on a warm, interpersonal relationship with others in the community. I believe that maintaining a good balance between the two is essential to living like a human being. In order to do achieve this, there must be a shift in the consciousness of the individual, companies and governments, as well as a consensus among society as a whole.

Companies should focus on enhancing its strength to live through market competition and at the same time try to use their experience and wisdom to enrich the quality of life so as to promote a "life-work balance." We are approaching a critical turning point where new business models can be created. I am confident that these efforts will advocate new corporate values, which in turn will drive the "qualitative development" of society as a whole.

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