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2014年4月15日 (火)

公務員改革法 官邸主導の人事が試される

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:17 pm, April 14, 2014
Prime Minister’s Office to be tested in carrying out civil service reform
公務員改革法 官邸主導の人事が試される

The Prime Minister’s Office will take the lead in making strategic personnel appointments of bureaucrats. We hope a recent law revision can achieve the results it was designed for.

The House of Councillors has passed a bill into law to reform the national civil servant system. The centerpiece of this law is the establishment of a cabinet personnel affairs bureau that would oversee the appointment of senior government officials in a unified manner. The bill was approved at an upper house plenary session by a majority vote with support from the Liberal Democratic Party, its ruling coalition partner New Komeito, the Democratic Party of Japan and other parties.

A basic law that indicated the fundamental principles and direction of civil service reform was enacted in 2008. Since then, related bills have been submitted to the Diet once by the LDP-Komeito administration and twice by the DPJ-led administration, but all were scrapped. Last week’s passage of the latest bill should finally bring an end to some of the arguments over civil service reform.

The new bureau likely will be launched at the end of May and oversee the appointment of about 600 senior government officials at ministries and agencies, including administrative vice ministers, bureau director generals and deputy ministers. The bureau will examine the suitability of candidates for these positions based on a performance assessment compiled by each ministry, before the prime minister and chief cabinet secretary and cabinet ministers ultimately discuss whether to appoint or dismiss them.

Japan needs bureaucrats qualified to respond to the needs of the times and committed to working for the benefit of the nation, rather than the benefit of certain ministries. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made promoting his Abenomics economic policies and elevating the role of women in society front and center in its approach to boosting the economy. Who will be placed in key posts in the government? Senior personnel changes planned for this summer will be a litmus test in this regard.

To ensure that favoritism is set aside and the right person gets the right job through a fair appointment process, evaluation criteria will need to be explicitly spelled out.
The cabinet personnel affairs bureau must stand firm in making appointments based on merit and performance.

Eliminate overlap with NPA

The bureau will also take over some of the functions of the National Personnel Authority, such as determining which personnel are placed in each salary rank.

In these instances, this will be conditional on the bureau “giving sufficient consideration” to the views of the NPA and other factors.

Having the duties of the new bureau and the NPA overlap would result in higher administration costs, which would defeat the purpose of the reform. We urge all parties involved to dedicate themselves to streamlining their operations.

The new law will make it possible for every ministry to have “aides or advisers to the minister.” These will apparently be members of staff who work behind the scenes like a stagehand to complete “special assignments” from the minister. If talented staff can be involved in these projects, it could strengthen the nation’s political leadership.

The new law did not incorporate giving civil servants the right to conclude a collective agreement, a basic labor right. This omission was justified on the grounds that the government “is unable to get public support for such a move at this stage.”

The DPJ strongly called for giving general civil servants the right to reach collective agreements, and having their salaries and other working conditions decided through labor-management negotiations, just as is done in the private sector. In an additional resolution accompanying the vote on the bill, the government stipulated that, in line with the DPJ’s proposal, it would continue to “work to reach a consensus” on this issue.

However, we are concerned that providing the right to form collective agreements could change the civil servant system for the worse. Labor unions in the private sector resist making outrageous demands in negotiations because if a company collapses, they will lose everything. But there are fears that it could be impossible to rein in civil servants if they were involved in such negotiations. Expanding the basic labor rights of our state workers should not be done lightly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 13, 2014)


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