The Yomiuri ShimbunThere is no end to the decrease in the number of university students aspiring to become career-track government employees. Multilateral countermeasures should be worked out after analyzing the cause of this situation.
The number of university students who applied this spring for examinations for those seeking career track positions was only about 17,000, down 10 percent from the previous year. In the case of its predecessor grade-I civil service examinations, there were about 45,000 applicants at the peak. Students’ lack of interest in becoming government employees is serious.
There is the fact that students have been flowing into private companies eager to hire people, reflecting the recent brisk business conditions. But it is necessary to look at medium-term factors as well.
Bureaucracy led the postwar economic growth, but cases of corruption and scandals involving bureaucrats have occurred in succession since the 1990s, causing the public to turn stern eyes on them. Many university students likely feel it is not worthwhile to become government employees.
Amid the mounting array of issues in domestic politics, foreign policy and security, it has become more important to promote policies to meet the needs of the times. Securing capable personnel in charge of practical operations directly leads to serving the national interest.
The important thing is to improve labor conditions and enhance the appeal of the civil service.
The National Personnel Authority has recommended raising the monthly salaries of government employees this fiscal year by 0.09 percent and upping their bonuses by a margin of 0.05 months’ pay. The monthly pay increases would apply to young government employees aged up to their mid-30s.
This is a step that has taken into consideration the intensifying competition with private companies to recruit university students. Given that there are fiscal constraints on total personnel expenditures for government employees, it is unavoidable to preferentially allocate fiscal resources to young-generation employees.
Utilize bureaucratic expertise
It is also indispensable to correct the practice of long working hours. The annual overtime at central government offices exceeds 350 hours on average, a figure close to the maximum set by law. It is imperative to deal with the matter by implementing such flexible measures as increasing the assignment of personnel to busy departments and sections beyond the boundaries of the vertically segmented administration of ministries and agencies.
Due to delays in submitting questions by lawmakers for Diet interpellations, bureaucrats are forced to work until the middle of the night to prepare answers. They are also hard-pressed to deal with demands by opposition party lawmakers to prepare an excessive amount of data and materials. The ruling and opposition parties should rectify the old-fashioned practices in the Diet.
Throughout the Heisei era, there was progress in the politician-initiated formulation of various systems, including the strengthening of the functions of the prime minister’s office and the establishment of the posts of state ministers. There is a view that this has narrowed the scope of discretion for bureaucrats and thus caused a decline in their morale.
The duty of bureaucrats is to propose policies by making use of their knowledge and analytical capacity and implement them adequately. It is essential for politicians to respect the professionalism of bureaucrats and utilize their expertise in the process of devising policies.
Expansion of personnel exchanges with the private sector will lead to revitalizing the bureaucratic apparatus. The number of people accepted from the private sector based on the Law on Personnel Exchange Between the Government Sector and Private Enterprises totaled 500 as of the end of last year, but the number of people dispatched from the government sector amounted to no more than 80. It is imperative to work out a system under which personnel who have accumulated experience in outside organizations can be utilized.