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Wednesday, 21 September 1983
Page: 1130

Mr REEVES(7.52) — Last week I was fortunate enough to be the guest of the Osaka Junior Chamber of Japan as part of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons Conference. I have grave doubts about the 'outstanding' label being applied to me, but I have no doubt that our host, the Osaka Junior Chamber , is an outstanding group of young people in the international community. This program was initiated by the Osaka Junior Chamber in 1980. These conferences will be held for 10 years. Each year 10 young people from various countries will be invited to have a look at Japan. The Osaka Junior Chamber describes this process as a way of private diplomacy carried out by young people. I hope I can live up to that ideal. I cannot think of one service club or similar organisation in Australian that takes its international relations so seriously. I might add that this program was just one of four international programs being conducted by this organisation at the same time. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has been to Japan to learn that we were met with overwhelming hospitality and kindness from our Japan hosts.

This year the Conference included representatives from the United States of America, Belgium, Sweden, Singapore and Indonesia. Our backgrounds ranged from politics to business. As a result we each had a unique opportunity to learn not only about Japan but also many other countries. Our hosts organised a full and varied program. We had the opportunity to see and discuss Japanese industry, its economy, its culture and its lifestyle. Many of us were intrigued by Japan's low unemployment levels and comparatively high sustained growth rates. It is apparent that Japan is moving quite quickly from its industrial base to an information base. This has serious implications for Australia's trade with Japan , particularly in coal and iron ore.

Despite this shift from one base to another Japan still has low levels of unemployment. It seems to me that this is related to at least three factors: The lifelong employment policy, the comparatively low level of women participating in the work force and the lower retiring ages of Japanese workers. This lifelong employment policy means that once a person is employed by a company that person is effectively assured of continuing employment with that company. We were told that employers kept their employees employed through a recession or technological displacement. This attitude and commitment to employees contrasts strongly with the attitude of Australian employers whose lay-off rates in recent years have been phenomenal. It is difficult to point to a single reason for the substantial difference in attitude between Japanese and Australian employers but it may be related to the fact that very many Japanese businesses, both big and small, are family businesses. Maybe if Australian employers injected some basic human care and concern into their employer-employee relations we too might have low unemployment and sustained growth rates.

Time permits me to mention only these few small parts of my impressions of Japan. I hope that more Japanese and Australians have the chance to see each other's countries. If they do not, I fear that our relationship with Japan may not grow stronger as it should. However there is no doubt that the Osaka Junior Chamber is doing its bit.