Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.9 (December 4, 2008)
Last Saturday, November 29, marked the fifth anniversary of the loss of their precious lives in Iraq.
Ambassador Oku and First Secretary Inoue's sense of mission and passion for the reconstruction of Iraq have been taken forward by Japanese diplomats and members of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in Iraq. The country is now steadily following the path of reconstruction.
The national flags of Japan and Iraq are shown side by side -- each side reaches out a hand, and the other side clasps it.
A picture featuring the words "For Iraq's future" is displayed at the main gate of Al Julan Elementary School, which was repaired by Japan. The picture depicts the SDF's achievements, which have taken firm root.
The SDF personnel have devoted themselves to each and every one of their missions, which have included road repairs, the development of water treatment plants, and the transport of people and medical supplies. The SDF's activities have certainly enhanced the image of Japan, though living in Japan we may not be conscious of it.
Last Friday, the Government of Japan decided to terminate, by the end of this year, the SDF's activities in Iraq, which have continued for four and a half years.
I would like to express my most sincere respect and gratitude to the SDF personnel who have diligently carried out missions in a sweltering land far away from their families. As the Prime Minister of Japan -- and as a Japanese citizen -- I am very proud of them.
On Monday of this week, I visited LoFT, a household goods store, in Shibuya, Tokyo.
It was not for shopping. This year, the company abolished classifications such as contract employees and part-time employees, and all employees who sought to become regular ones have now been accepted as such. The staff on the sales floor and at cash registers are all regular employees. I wanted to see this and hear from the staff directly. That is why I visited the store.
The people in charge of the sales floor work on their own initiative at everything from monitoring hot-selling products to placing orders. Cashiers need a wealth of product knowledge to draw upon when serving customers.
"This is a challenging job," said a young employee. What was clear to me from her words was the pride that she takes in her work. These people with real responsibility and a corresponding level of treatment had shining faces.
I heard that the changes to the company's personnel system have resulted in a cost increase of over 400 million yen, yet sales are growing despite the country's severe economic situation.
There are no better resources than employees who commit to their companies and work as hard as they can. The words of Mr. Yoshiharu Endo, the company president, impressed me greatly. He said, "We spare no efforts when investing in our human resources."
People are the essence of companies. I reaffirmed the strength of Japanese-style management.
That evening, I asked Chairman of the Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) Fujio Mitarai and Chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tadashi Okamura to help bolster stable employment and raise wages. I also requested that companies not withdraw offers of employment.
Employment and wages are the basic foundations of people's livelihoods. Even if the economic situation becomes severe, we must safeguard them.
For its part, the Government is taking every possible measure, including reducing employment insurance fees and supporting regular employment of young people. In addition to these efforts, the Government and the private sector must work together and take whatever measures they can in order to safeguard the basic foundations of people's livelihoods.
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