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Friday, Feb. 9, 2007

Kansai execs told to become better corporate citizens

Staff writer

KYOTO -- Elite business leaders should be concerned about Japanese society and not profits, do more to employ young people and seniors, and increase patriotism in its workers, the secretary general for the Liberal Democratic Party told the annual gathering of Kansai business leaders Thursday.

News photo
Business leaders in the Kansai region kick off the two-day Kansai Economic Forum on Thursday morning at the Kyoto International Conference Center in Kyoto. KYODO PHOTO

Hidenao Nakagawa said in the keynote speech at the two-day Kansai Economic Forum that Kansai's captains of industry needed to raise a new generation of elite, patriotic business leaders who think about more than just the company's bottom line.

"An elite business leader who doesn't feel that Japan is a 'beautiful country' will simply tell the government to leave him alone. But, elite business leaders must think about their business within society as a whole," Nakagawa said.

Both Nakagawa and Kansai Economic Federation Chairman Yoshihisa Akiyama both said firms must pay more attention to providing job opportunities to talented young people who want full-time work and older people who don't want to retire.

"One of the weak points of the Kansai region is that the number of full-time, salaried employees continues to decline and it is extremely hard for many young and old workers to find full-time work," Akiyama said.

The 2007 Kansai Economic Forum is expected to focus mostly on broad socioeconomic policies, ranging from Japan's role in the Asian economy to securing stable energy sources to the relationship between society and consumers.

Long-term social trends, most notably how the labor market will change as the population declines, are also expected to get some attention. Participants at past forums have always emphasized the need for national and local policies promoting education and retraining for both young and older workers.

However, strong opposition from senior members in the Kansai Economic Federation has meant there has been little or no discussion in the past of immigrant labor as a solution to the shrinking workforce.

More pressing local economic problems may also get some attention. At the top of the list for many forum participants is the struggling Kobe airport, which opened last February.

Kobe had predicted that nearly 3.2 million people would use the airport in its first year, but only about 2.4 million passengers had passed through by the beginning of this year.

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The Japan Times

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