With small local governments suffering from a shortage of technical staff, the central government is planning to dispatch such employees from prefectures and major regional cities, as well as provide financial support for the personnel costs involved.
There is a growing need for technical staff to repair aging infrastructure and respond to disasters, and the government hopes to utilize personnel in a flexible way.
Local civil servants in the engineering sector work in such fields as civil engineering, construction, electricity and agriculture, and are responsible for planning and maintaining public facilities. The government believes that pooling a certain number of technical staff in prefectures and major regional cities would enable them to respond flexibly to the fluctuating workloads of municipalities, and in different seasons.
It would also enable such staff to gain experience through a large number of jobs and efficiently improve their skills as a result of intensive training.
The central government’s financial support will cover the personnel costs of the additional staff and be provided through a tax grant. The amount will be calculated in keeping with the number of personnel who can be dispatched.
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has notified each municipality that from this fiscal year it will be included in the grant tax system.
Smaller municipalities are plagued with a chronic shortage of technical staff. A large number of employees, including members of the baby-boom generation, are coming up for retirement and the economy is recovering, which makes it difficult for public sector to hire staff.
According to a 2019 capacity management survey conducted by the ministry, nearly 70% of 1,189 municipalities — out of a total of 1,741 — do not have the planned number of employees.
Need is growing in inverse proportion to the decline in staffing levels. Social infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels that were built in large numbers during the period of rapid growth from the 1950s to the 1970s are coming to the end of their useful life and are in urgent need of renovation.
The frequent occurrence of natural disasters, such as torrential rains that cause extensive damage, has also affected the need for repairs. The management and maintenance of levees and other facilities to prevent rivers from flooding is the responsibility of technical staff.
The ministry envisions that the dispatched personnel will be assigned to inspect and repair such infrastructure, but assignments may be for the medium to long term for disaster recovery. The ministry intends to also encourage prefectures to hire mid-career workers, as training new hires will not be sufficient to meet the surge in demand.
However, it has been said this will not solve the chronic shortage of staff in small municipalities.