Metropolitan govt gears up for digital recruitment drive

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tokyo metropolitan government employee Taketomi Fujita

With local governments struggling to secure personnel with IT experience amid the nationwide push to digitize administrative services, the Tokyo metropolitan government plans to launch an initiative that will help it source digital experts.

Local governments traditionally cannot compete when it comes to attracting digital personnel as the private sector tends to offer higher pay for such roles, while salaries in the civil service are set by laws and regulations.

The metropolitan government plans to set up a corporation specializing in securing digital talent to address the human resources shortfall. The corporation, GovTech Tokyo, will also be used to hire personnel sought by Tokyo wards and municipalities.

Taketomi Fujita, who moved from the private sector to the Tokyo metropolitan government in April, said, “In the end, I chose a job that helps society, even though I received an offer from a company that was offering a salary that was about 50% higher.”

Fujita had worked at a venture firm that develops nursing care robots and other products. He now works as a section chief at the metropolitan government’s Bureau of Digital Services.

He had considered opportunities at 10 IT firms but ended up accepting a fixed-term contract at the metropolitan government.

Fujita supports the implementation of online administrative procedures at the metropolitan government in a role that requires digital expertise and involves introducing examples of efforts at other local governments and offering software advice.

“I feel that I’ve been able to contribute to improving the lives of citizens,” Fujita said.

Openings for tech roles have tripled since 2018, according to BizReach Inc., a Tokyo-based company that operates a job search website. Some new graduates are said to have been offered annual salaries of as much as ¥10 million.

As of August, the metropolitan government had 123 digital experts like Fujita, a seven-fold increase from two years ago.

However, the number of applicants for such roles has remained flat. Fixed-term contracts and other issues are thought to be among some of the reasons that are keeping applicants away.

‘Not on the radar ’

“The posts are not on the radar of engineers looking to change jobs, partly because the various digital measures being undertaken by the Tokyo metropolitan government are not widely known,” said Tokyo Vice Gov. Manabu Miyasaka, a former chairperson of IT giant Yahoo Japan Corp. “There’s room for improvement with salaries and the framework.”

Miyasaka, 55, became a vice governor in 2019.

Two ideas being considered for the GovTech initiative are that the company will hire digital personnel and have them support wards and municipalities, and it will direct candidates to job openings at wards and municipalities.

“We will continue to attract talented personnel by flexibly setting salaries and work styles,” a senior metropolitan government official said.

Tokyo intends to launch the initiative by autumn next year.

By fiscal 2025, the central government wants a universal system in place for procedures such as resident and family registrations. Local governments will have to implement digital measures swiftly, but difficulties in securing human resources are widespread.

Zero applicants

Last year, a city in the Chugoku region received no applicants for a digital role. “We were looking for experts with more than 10 years of experience, but the salaries were not high. We were too optimistic,” a recruiter said.

Some local governments are aiming to appoint executives from the private sector. Shin Sawada, a vice mayor of Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, was recruited seven years ago from Loyalty Marketing Inc., a company based in the ward that runs Ponta loyalty points.

“Administrative institutions have a hard time breaking away from ‘paper culture,” said Sawada, 63. “We need to change the way we train staff members to keep up with the times.”

Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward has made it possible for residents to apply for a certificate of residence using the Line communication app.

Setagaya Ward vice mayor Katsuhiko Matsumura, 58, joined the local government in June from software company Cybozu Inc.

“The responsibilities of local government offices will change in a few years but it’s difficult for officials to learn about digital technology in a short period of time,” Matsumura said. “We’d like to raise awareness among officials by holding regular study sessions.”