TOKYO: Japan’s administrative reform minister KONO Taro plans to tackle the problem of government employees’ long working hours as part of his drive to implement drastic reform measures.
In a recent interview, Kono said that he has instructed each government ministry and agency to conduct a survey to find out the number of hours employees spend at their workplace by job type as well as by organization.
The move reflects Kono’s eagerness to carry out bold reform steps successively. He has already ordered government ministries and agencies to scrap the traditional use of “hanko” personal seals in administrative procedures, and has said the next step in promoting digitalization is to stop the use of fax machines.
We checked 800 most often used government procedures with hanko, or name stamp or seal, and found few of them need to continue with hanko. This is the first step to make those procedures online.— KONO Taro (@konotaromp) October 1, 2020
Kono stressed that getting rid of widely used hanko seals, stamped on paper documents for authorization, is not the goal.
“We have to aim for the next step,” Kono said. “We’re only at the stage where the first runner has just started in a 400-meter relay race.”
On the digitalization of society as a whole, Kono said, “There are many rules that hinder the moves of digital transformation minister Takuya Hirai–those made before the current age of digital transformation–such as ‘stamping hanko seals’ and ‘signing paper documents with a fountain pen.'”
“Those rules need to be removed as soon as possible to move to the next step,” he said.
Regarding bureaucratic sectionalism, Kono said, “The problem is that when a task falls in between sections or straddles multiple sections, it won’t be tackled unless one of the sections makes a move.”
Asked whether he intends to run for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race expected to take place next September, Kono did not give a clear answer.
Instead, he said he wishes to fulfill his duties at hand under the new cabinet of Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide.