Bureaucrats Still Burning Midnight Oil Ahead of Diet Questions

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Japan.

Bureaucrats are still working long hours, according to a survey by The Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs, which examined their working hours during the last Diet session.

According to the survey, which covered all ministries and agencies during the May 15 to June 21 Diet session, the average time that bureaucrats finished preparing all draft answers to parliamentary questions that members of the ruling and opposition parties had submitted to the government in advance was 1:42 a.m. on the day the question session was to be held.

This was one hour and 14 minutes earlier than the 2:56 a.m. average during last year’s extraordinary Diet session.

The average time to begin preparing the last answer was 6:26 p.m. the day before the session, one hour and 28 minutes earlier than the 7:54 p.m. of the previous survey. About 3% of the questions were submitted after 6 p.m. on the day before the session, down by half from about 6% in the previous survey.

The ruling and opposition parties agreed to strive for prompt submission of questions in June. On the other hand, some have questioned the effectiveness of the measure for reducing working hours, with one young Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker saying, “‘Prompt’ is a vague expression and is not effective.”

Digital minister Taro Kono, who is in charge of the national civil service system, said that “it is important to continue to work on improving Diet-correspondence tasks that place a heavy burden on bureaucrats.” He plans to continue to conduct the survey on a regular basis.