National

Japan giving more government workers permission to moonlight amid labor crunch

JIJI

More civil servants are taking second jobs amid the nationwide labor crunch, with some municipalities giving the green light for side jobs that contribute to society.

Municipal and prefectural governments issued 41,669 approvals in 2018 allowing employees to take additional jobs, according to the internal affairs ministry.

Bureaucrats are usually banned from working at profit-oriented companies or doing business in exchange for compensation.

Although moonlighting is permitted if approval is given, many are hesitant to ask for permission because of the sometimes murky standards involved.

Due to labor shortages and work-style reform, however, there are growing calls for bureaucrats to join in community activities. In response, governments have begun to clarify their standards for approving side jobs.

According to the ministry, 11,506 of the side jobs approved in fiscal 2018 were related to activities that contribute to society, including traditional events, disaster preparation and response, crime prevention, and support for sports, cultural and art activities.

The other 30,163 jobs ranged from agriculture and real estate to family businesses.

Kobe was the first government to encourage its personnel to pick up side jobs involving work that contributes to society.

In April 2017, the city started a system for helping personnel take part in community activities for compensation. To receive get permission, applicants must not have been involved in work related to any municipal contracts signed with the company in question in the past five years.

So far, 15 civil servants have been engaging in such activities as providing support to people with disabilities and conducting surveys to help make better use of kominka (traditional housing).

“We want workers who are eager to be of service to local communities to come forward and use the system,” one municipal official said.

The government of Shikabe, Hokkaido, set clear standards for the approval of side jobs in November. Approval is granted for jobs that serve the good of the community, including support for scallop fishing and kelp gathering — both key industries that are suffering from the labor crunch.

With many government staff coming from outside of town, the new approval standards for moonlighting are aimed in part at developing human resources with roots in local communities.

“We hope our personnel will be involved directly in addressing local challenges and make good use of such experiences in their regular jobs,” a town official said.