K.G.U. Tokyo Alumni Circle “E-NEWS & SONGS” reports:
AN OVERVIEW OF ONLINE DISCUSSION did on Sept. 10, 2020
Panelists: K.M.(M), Y. F.(M), K. M(M), Y. N.(F), T. M.(M) and P.S.(M)
Text: “Work-style reform needed at the government center “[Thanks to The Japan Times’ Editorial dated Aug. 20, 2020]
Did we cognized the first question QUOTE that “a distressing number of bureaucrats in our government ministries have been logging overtime at a level of that could cause death from overwork” UNQUOTE.
One of senior panelists properly pointed out; Quote: “I completely agree to the three comments, pointed out by our chairperson as noteworthy, that are (1) the unbelievably miserable reality of workplace inefficiency, shown by the excessive overtime by the national bureaucrats in dealing with politicians who refuse to adapt themselves to the digital age and who continue to ask bureaucrats to give various briefings in person. The use of online conference tools with politicians is limited, (2) another reality that national bureaucrats, who graduated from distinguished universities, are working with full of papers around in their offices and who are apparently reducing their interest and will to take the initiative to freely use digital communication tools or systems, originally required within the government structure. I myself also felt the same when I had a chance to visit an office of bureaucrats for a meeting on some company project. The office was just full of papers, piled up on desks and seemingly scattered around in disorder. I was disappointed.” Unquote.
Others shrewdly continued stating that government jobs are evidently laggard due to deficient IT reform with which, reportedly, Japan has been placed the tenth in the U.N. rankings of digital governments likely behind South Korea. On the other hand, someone stressed that the ongoing matter is not merely a problem but also
an interactive phenomenon between major ministries such as Cabinet Office, Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and cabinet members who are not harmonized yet to cooperate with each other for constructing an advanced digital government.
(2) QUOTE “One of responses written by a health ministry official in his 30s: “ My son told me that it was the first time for me to sit down with him and have dinner (on weekday) , I cried because I felt very sorry for my son that I hadn’t done things that an ordinary parent would do. “ “I realized the work style of Kasumigaseki is based on such sacrifice of those bureaucrats, Yoshie Komuro-president of Work Life Balance Co. commented.“ UNQUTE A female panelist commented that this kind of tragedy, in my memory, used be just a common thing with ordinary families of cooperate warriors in late SHOWA era. Housewives supported husbands defending their families and homes i.e. age of matricentric and father absence but Japan was ironically evaluated as No. 1 in the world economic rankings. We should however change it from mother-centered home life to rather father-centered life. Further, another senior panelist told that reportedly a questionnaire survey targeted at 30s or younger bureaucrats lately revealed that 1 in 7 male bureaucrats and 1 in 10 female bureaucrats wish to quit a job within 3 years because of delay in work style reform. For this reason, we need to promote our work life balance and accelerate to realize a digital government running after two hares in this case viz. happy national life and greater national profit laid the foundation of work style reform at the government center.
Problem (3) QUOTE; “Politicians refuse to adapt themselves to the digital age and continue to ask bureaucrats to give various briefings in person, even late at night or early in the morning. Fax messages and telephone calls continue to be their regular communication methods. Bureaucrats always have to promptly respond to requests from those lawmakers in such archaic ways. “UNQUOTE. Active remedy, one of senior panelists commented, is to reform public education systems that give, for instance, elementary school children advanced IT benefits through individual PC in the classroom desk. Another senior panelist lamented that a lot of lawmakers and cabinet members are too old to catch up current digitization from which middle-aged politicians, sensitive to the times, should hand over their knowledges and experiences cultivated throughout the digital revolution to the next generation.
(4) QUOTE; “For example, using documents and hanko seals are a main means for policy approval, while the use of online conference tools is limited, with some bureaucrats commenting that they can’t use videoconferencing apps except Skype. Japan needs to create new rules and a system that fit the new age. UNQUOTE
Most panelists agreed with a prospect that presidential election of this time is important to realize drastic revision of old-fashioned government work style. We must wipe off lawmakers’ spoiled way of thinking and their behavior to use secretaries and staffs as if they were servants. New systems, including digitization (paperless work) for office clerks as well as factory workers and cashless payment), need to be established as soon as possible. Lastly, we cite the opening members’ sharp criticism as follows. Quote; “I have recently come across a warning expression, written about the behavior of Japanese.“We Japanese tend to yield to pressure to conform(fit in)” (We Japanese, particularly, should bear in mind the behavior, when making decisions or conducting dialogs with people in an organization). It is highly regrettable if this attitude or stance is exhibited before the public when the top of the government takes the stance just to pay respect to the administration before him, policies which have been honored by the previous administration and prioritize his long-term relationships with his own political group fellows.” Unquote.
Peter K. Satow – Chairperson
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