The government has adopted a policy to reduce or transfer to different positions 10 percent of national government employees over five years starting in fiscal 2015.
The policy aims to staff important posts in such high-priority fields as regional revitalization by moving employees across ministries and agencies more flexibly while reducing personnel costs.
The Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs, in charge of uniform management of personnel matters of the central government, will take a leading role in deciding transfers of general administrative officials. Specialists such as judges and Self-Defense Force members are not included.
The government will set an annual goal of reducing or transferring to different posts at least 2 percent of the central government officials over a period of five years by streamlining clerical work through the promotion of electronic approval systems and the standardization of operations that currently vary among ministries. The policy will also clearly state a goal for each ministry.
Concerning fields with political significance, positions linked to regional revitalization and creating favorable work conditions for women, as well as the Japan Coast Guard, which is responsible for patrolling areas including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, are expected to have more officials.
Previously, the government had launched a plan to cut the number of officials at national administrative bodies by 10 percent from fiscal 2010 to 2014, succeeding in eliminating 32,206 positions—more than the original goal of 30,244—over five years.
The total number of officials fell to 297,138, down 5,143 from the fiscal 2010 figure of 302,281. Personnel costs saw a ¥76.9 billion drop.
The Democratic Party of Japan-led administration of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided in 2012 to newly hire only 3,780 employees in fiscal 2013, a 56 percent cut from the previous year.
But in 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revised the downsizing plan, saying that the plan may cause generational imbalances and interfere with administrative functions in the future. The government plans to give informal appointments this fiscal year to about 7,000 new graduates.
The new policy, however, does not refer to a numerical reduction target, raising concerns that the reductions may fall to a sluggish pace.