Finance officials come up with work-habit ideas

by Kazuaki Nagata

A Finance Ministry project team compiled a set of proposals Monday to reform the ministry, focusing on achieving a more efficient working style and better work-life balance for its bureaucrats.

The ministry’s officials are generally considered the elite of the nation’s bureaucrats, but they also have a policy-wonk image.

Some of the 50 proposals encourage officials to use their paid vacation, take parental leave and have family members visit the ministry once in a while.

“In our ministry, not many male workers have had child-care leave, but I think if the situation is right they should take it more,” said Hidenori Sakota, director of the ministry’s policy planning and research division.

Sakota is part of the project team that has 20 members from various sections of the ministry.

The workload for central government bureaucrats is notoriously heavy. For instance, when budget-related bills are deliberated in the Diet, some Finance Ministry officials often have to work all night to prepare notes so Cabinet ministers can answer questions during committee sessions.

When Naoto Kan became finance minister in January, he instructed the bureaucrats under his sway to create an in-house project team to come up with suggestions for reforming the ministry and its work style, with the catch phrase “bureaucrats can go out on dates on weekdays.”

The team’s report calls for other reforms as well, such as more interaction with the private sector and other ministries.

Kan said that while the report is well-written, it should have addressed more specific issues.

“I’d give it a 77″ out of 100, he said.