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Messages from Keidanren Executives August, 2017 Opinions from the Perspectives of "Small and Medium-Sized Companies", "Regions", and "Women".

Kuniko ASANO Vice Chair of the Board of Councillors, Keidanren
Chairman, Hakuichi Co., Ltd.

A little over 1 year has passed since my appointment as the deputy chairman of the council of Keidanren (Japan Federation of Economic Organizations). I have placed the first emphasis on the "perspectives of small and medium-size companies", the second one on the "perspectives of regions", and the third one on the "perspectives of women" since then. I am going to give my personal opinions on some issues currently under discussion in Keidanren.

The first one is on the workstyle innovation. In Japan today, efforts have been promoted toward the reduction of working hours. I want to propose the followings for the future direction of the discussion.

First, I think that it is necessary to discuss large companies and small and medium-sized companies separately. Highly-creative work that places importance on "technique" and "sensibility" that are strengths of Japanese small and medium-sized companies has to be performed free from time restrictions, so it is a field where it is difficult to reduce working hours. It is necessary to proceed with the workstyle innovation taking into consideration the characteristic of small and medium-sized companies that are supporting the Japanese economy.

Then, I think that with regard to the workers on the brink of managerial position, it is necessary to discuss each level of workers separately like introducing a discretionary work system for the top-level ones and a flexible time system for the medium-level ones. When we see other countries, some countries have longer working hours and higher labor productivities than Japan. For example, the U.S, has longer working hours and higher labor productivities than Japan. It is also necessary to have discussions with higher perspectives in order to improve the competitiveness of Japan in the long run against such a background.

The second one is on the regional revitalization. A point for the regional revitalization is the creation of the system where "money" and "people" flow "from the world to regions" and the one where "things" and "information" flow "from regions to the world" in a multitiered manner. In particular regional markets are expected to shrink in the future, so it is important to develop new distribution channels for the "things" produced by regional companies to be delivered to the world. From such a perspective, Keidanren and Hokkeiren (Hokuriku Economic Federation) are seeking business matchings between small and medium-sized companies in Hokuriku and large companies that are the members of Keidanren. If management bases of regional small and medium-sized companies are strengthened in a sustained manner through the activity, it will lead to regional employments and town developments. Such an activity is suited to regional issues as well as becomes a regional revitalization activity that can be carried out only by Keidanren.

The third one is on the active participation of women. Women's participation in society is the most important for the development of Japanese economy. Then, I want to propose an upgrading of the Cabinet Office Gender Equality Bureau to establish the "Ministry of Women". When we see other countries, Canada, Germany, and Australia, etc have the Ministry of Women. "White Paper on Women" is published every year in Canada, where monitoring of women's participation in society is improving the women's participation in various fields of society.

It is necessary to "develop human resources that support the next-generation of Japan" in order to proceed with each of the 3 approaches above. Now it is important to discuss human resources that support the future of Japan with the "spirit of Komehyappyo" (a hundred straw rice bags). There is no future for Japan without the development of "human resources" that is the only resource of Japan.