• Kyodo

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Japan’s largest business lobby stressed on Tuesday the importance of structural reforms while pushing for actors in the political and corporate spheres to drive the innovation they say will help overcome the nation’s labor and productivity challenges.

In his new-year message, Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Keidanren, said the organization will continue promoting greater use of new digital technologies. It also wants closer cooperation between business, government and academia to resolve the social challenges the organization’s strategy outlines as barriers to growth.

In addition to such growth measures, “encouraging structural reforms including making the social security system sustainable and accelerating fiscal rehabilitation while maintaining the international economic order will be the main pillar of our lobbying activities,” Nakanishi said.

Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, called on the government and general public to have a sense of urgency in tackling challenges the country faces as economic growth remains slow and political efforts to carry out structural reforms prove unable to keep up with changes and advances in the global economic and technological environments.

Corporate managers need to seize new business opportunities more aggressively to achieve higher productivity and profitability, he said.

“We need to make this year a transitional point” for politics, administration, diplomacy and corporate management, Kobayashi said.

Akio Mimura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the country’s productivity has to be raised to address structural problems including labor shortages and sluggishness in regional economies.

“While promoting the participation of more women, people beyond retirement age and foreigners in the labor market, productivity needs to be improved through the use of new technologies including internet of things, robots and artificial intelligence,” Mimura said.

Making the most of the central government’s assistance measures and cooperation with regional banks, his business group will further promote the revitalization of small enterprises, Mimura said.

The Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry will work closely with the government to help small and medium-sized businesses prepare for the introduction of a more complex tax system when the consumption tax is raised to 10 percent from 8 percent in October.

The government will keep the rate at 8 percent for food, excluding meals purchased at restaurants, and alcoholic beverages.

However, many companies, including small retailers, are thought to be slow to updating their point of sale systems to handle different tax rates.

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