A record-low 40 former government officials were hired in 2000 by companies linked to the ministries and agencies they worked for, according to an annual report compiled by the National Personnel Authority.

The number of officials hired by private or public corporations with the consent of the personnel authority was the lowest since 1963, when it first began recording the number for the Diet and the Cabinet.

The practice, known as “amakudari” (descent from heaven), places state officials in cushy jobs in industries over which they formerly had jurisdiction.

The report, submitted Wednesday to the Diet and the Cabinet, says that 62 former officials were hired by related corporations in 1999.

It also says the decline in the number probably reflects the officials’ awareness that the practice is frowned upon by the public, especially at a time when the economy is still sluggish and unemployment is high.

Among the 40 retirees, nine came from the Finance Ministry, four each were from the Transport and Posts and Telecommunications ministries, three each from the National Tax Administration and the Japan Coast Guard, and two from the Construction Ministry, the report says.

The report has been criticized, however, for not including officials who were hired by charitable organizations affiliated with the government or by corporations such as Japan Highway Public Corp. Such reports, critics say, reveal only the tip of the amakudari iceberg.

In response, Ryutaro Hashimoto, state minister in charge of administrative reform, unveiled a government blueprint Tuesday for overhauling the nation’s civil service, including tighter rules governing civil servants who move to the private sector.

The blueprint calls for making the heads of government ministries and agencies primarily responsible for their own personnel policies, which have so far been centralized under the National Personnel Authority.

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