[ Keidanren ] [ Journal ]
Messages from "Economic Trend", September 2011

Respecting Diversity

Shinzo MAEDA
Vice Chairman of the Board of Councillors, Keidanren
Chairman, Shiseido Company, Ltd.

Globalization has always been an important issue in Japan, but the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake has accelerated its pace. Japanese corporations are being compelled to speed up their globalization efforts. Companies that were once oriented toward domestic demand are now spreading their production locations throughout the world or expanding their overseas business operations.

I believe that the key requirement for Japanese corporations as well as the Japanese people to become globalized is achieving diversity. It is crucial to accept diverse values, different cultures, and the wide range of differing personalities. Respecting diversity also leads to understanding the needs of the diverse peoples comprising the market and is therefore essential to boosting corporations' ability to create value.

Regarding diversity, however, I must say that Japan is behind other major developed nations even in terms of gender-related awareness and action, which is closest at hand. The participation rate of females in Japan's workforce follows the so-called "M Curve*," and the percentage of female corporate directors is only slightly above 10%. This is a clear indication that Japan is behind in terms of achieving diversity.

Furthermore, because of increases in the average lifespan of its people, the aging of its population, and the speed at which these two are occurring, Japan has become one of the fastest aging societies in the world. At the same time, the child-rearing environment continues to be unfavorable and Japan has not been able to implement any meaningful measures to combat the low birthrate. As a result, Japan is facing serious problems of population decline and a shrinking labor force. In other words, Japan is being forced to implement measures to cope simultaneously with problems at both ends of the spectrum - an aging population and fewer children - an extremely difficult challenge, the likes of which no other advanced nation has ever experienced.

Going forward, for Japan to regain its vitality, the achievement of greater diversity, especially enabling the active participation of women, will be crucial. In both the political/administrative arena and the private sector for which private corporations bear responsibility, we must continue implementing the necessary measures to achieve this goal with a great deal of determination and the ability to get things done.

Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) must continue encouraging structural reforms and solving funding source issues. At the same time, corporations must strive to enhance their abilities to create value and revitalize the Japanese economy through steps such as creating an environment that enables women to simultaneously raise children and have a career, and nurturing and promoting capable female employees.

*M Curve: Phenomenon in which the female workforce participation rate temporarily dips for women in their 30's, due to childbirth and childrearing.

Home Page in English