A year ago, the minister in charge of administrative reform at the time, Taro Kono, launched an investigation into why central government jobs had become unattractive. Bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki, the Tokyo district where government ministries and agencies are located, work a punishing amount of overtime, and the younger ones, even those on career tracks, have been quitting in increasing numbers. Moreover, fewer university graduates are seeking employment in the sector.

According to an Oct. 8 article in the Asahi Shimbun, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga decided last March to pursue a new policy for government employees by looking at the hours assigned at each ministry or agency and then determining how much overtime is necessary and whether such adjustments can be addressed under current budget guidelines.

The amount of overtime budgeted for a given year is based on the amount of overtime paid the previous year. These increases ranged from 1.1% to 3.8% over the past five years. However, when asked how much more overtime they really needed, ministries’ and agencies’ requests average about 18%, with the highest proposal, 47.4%, coming from the Environment Ministry.