• Yomiuri Editorial
  • Housing for National Civil Servants

Renovating Facilities Will Help Attract Human Resources

If housing complexes for national civil servants are aging and located far from workplaces, it could hinder their performance in carrying out their official duties. With more and more young people avoiding jobs as national civil servants, it is important to provide good quality housing for government staff.

The government has decided to construct new housing for national civil servants. It plans to build a 14-story building with 446 units for ministry and government agency employees at a site in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, which currently houses an accommodation complex for detention officers that is scheduled to be rebuilt. The new building will be completed in fiscal 2029. It will be the first construction of a housing complex for national civil servants in 13 years.

In 2011, the then Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration decided to drastically reduce the number of housing units for national civil servants. Based on the plan, the government has reduced the number from 218,000 to 162,000 and has also refrained from constructing new buildings. The proceeds from the sale of accommodation sites have been used to finance reconstruction efforts following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

In addition to the aim of raising funds for reconstruction, the DPJ, which vowed to “reduce wasteful spending,” was determined to pursue a track record of success during its administration.

However, the scrapping of housing complexes and the freeze on construction have created a situation in which dilapidated housing complexes and a shortage of units have become conspicuous in recent years.

About 47,000 units, or 30% of the total, are over 40 years old. Some units have no screen doors or hot-water boilers, and some still have old-style bath heaters. It is inevitable that young people are reluctant to live in such homes.

Young and mid-career bureaucrats often work late into the night to deal with Diet matters. However, there reportedly is a severe shortage of accommodations close to central Tokyo.

Bureaucrats play a major role in formulating domestic and foreign policies and implementing these policies with the direction of the Cabinet. It is the responsibility of the central government to provide a comfortable working environment for bureaucrats.

The number of students applying to become national civil servants continues to decline. From the perspective of securing human resources, the government should systematically improve and expand accommodations.

In addition to the current plan, the government intends to gradually renovate aging housing. To gain the understanding of the public, it is essential to make efforts to thoroughly explain the necessity of these facilities.

Priority in the future development of these facilities should be given to securing accommodations for employees who deal with disasters and other emergencies.

In the event of a disaster such as an earthquake with a focus directly under the Tokyo metropolitan area, the government has stated that an initial response should be made “within about three hours.” To that end, about 7,300 employees have been designated as emergency response personnel who are required to arrive at the office immediately in the event of an earthquake or other disasters.

However, there are only about 3,600 housing units for emergency response personnel within a 6-kilometer radius from workplaces that could be reached on foot in the designated timeframe.

It is a problem if staff who deal with crisis management cannot arrive at the office immediately. The government must promptly provide the necessary number of housing units.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2023)