Ill-advised hiring cuts

The Noda administration has decided to reduce the number of recruits by government ministries and agencies for fiscal 2013 by 56 percent from the fiscal 2009′s level — that is lower than the 70 percent average reduction Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada asked the central bureaucracy to achieve. The decision, however, clearly shows the Noda administration only intends to make a pretense of pushing administrative reform.

The decision to slash recruits will have adverse side effects, including a decline in the quality of administrative services, a fall in the morale of bureaucrats and, in the long term, a distortion in the bureaucracy’s age structure. But first and foremost, the decision will reduce job opportunities for new graduates struggling to find work in Japan’s employment “ice age.”

Before the Democratic Party of Japan came to power, the government hired 8,511 recruits for fiscal 2009. The DPJ government employed 5,333 recruits for fiscal 2011 (37 percent less than in fiscal 2009), but for fiscal 2012 it hired 6,336 recruits to fill needs created by the 3/11 disasters (26 percent less than the 2009 level). For fiscal 2013 it will employ about 3,700 recruits. If fiscal 2009 is used as a base year, this means that more than 10,000 graduates will have lost job opportunities in the three-year period from fiscal 2011.

A Kyodo News survey of 107 major companies in late February revealed that 21 percent plan to hire fewer workers in the spring of 2013 compared to 2012. The government should remember that the employment situation will also be dire next year.

When Mr. Okada directed government ministries and agencies to slash the number of recruits next year by an average of 70 percent from the fiscal 2009 level, he was clearly trying to use the cut as a quid pro quo to convince the public to accept the government’s plan to raise the consumption tax from fiscal 2014. But the public will see through this trick.

The recruitment cuts will impact vital personnel such as prison guards, corrections officers and coast guard crew members. An official in the transport ministry, which has jurisdiction over the Japan Coast Guard, said the cuts will make it difficult to sufficiently guard Japan’s territorial waters.

By reducing the number of new government hires, the Noda administration will make it difficult to reform the bureaucracy from within through the efforts of talented young bureaucrats.