The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
New forum involves younger staff, urban planning

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has estab­lished a forum entitled Policy Venture 2030, through which mid-ranked and younger ministry staff can discuss public works and urban policies from a bold perspective.

While some belittled the move as no more than a rehash of a similar approach adopted by The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in May 2017, MLIT has proposed a total of 21 policy points that include:

  • Finishing backed-up assignments
  • Being proactive toward the future
  • Fostering contin­uous change

The project team comprises 34 members, with an average age of 35 years, who are seen as likely to have advanced to executive levels by 2030. They will exchange opinions with more than 170 staff members and groups, visit different regions, and take part in symposiums.

One area of focus will be deregulatory measures aimed at receiving non-Japanese residents, with dis­cussion of Japanese customs such as security deposits and monetary gifts to land­lords (key money), and the need for personal guarantors. In the case of rental housing, it has been suggested that monthly rents be raised to cover the difference in lieu of the traditional system.

Staffing of regional government offices is also a concern. As Japan’s population declines, it will become more difficult to deal with issues in a timely manner, leading to deterioration of infrastructure. One proposed solution is the development of apps through which citizens can easily report problems, such as road damage, to government admin­istrators. Apps that match residents with simple tasks such as weed removal are also being planned.

New work styles in which jobs are recruited via the internet head­lined discussions. Par­ticularly conspicuous were such unfamiliar terms as “gig economy” (independent workers engaged in short-term work) and “agile,” in reference to a development method that entails minimal risk. Changing the bureau­cratic environ­ment so that such terms can be used freely may prove a greater challenge than putting the proposals into action.

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Premium Friday to become Premium Monday?

The Premium Friday plan launched by the government in February 2017 turned out to be a flop.

Initially, the idea was for workers in both the public and private sectors to leave work at 3:00 p.m. on the last Friday of the month so they could spend more by shopping, going to the movies, eating out, or taking short weekend trips.

The response, however, has been insuf­ficient to bring any appreciable benefit to the economy. In a January 2018 survey by the Nippon Life Insurance Company’s NLI Research Institute, 94.5 percent of respondents said they were aware of Premium Friday but only 3 percent said they actually took advantage of it. Of those who did, 46.3 percent used the extra time for eating out, 44.6 percent for shopping, and 30.3 percent spent the time at home. About 80 percent said they spent less than ¥10,000 and a majority spent between ¥3,000 and ¥4,900.

It is believed that another reason for the failure of Premium Friday is that, in many sectors, the end of the week or month is a particularly busy time. In retail and service industries, in particular, Premium Friday coincides with the peak business period.

So, METI has expressed a desire not to depend on the last Friday of the month and instead apply a flexible approach.

The Premium Friday on July 27 turned out to be the last of its kind, and—as it occurred at the start of summer vacation—some 140 department stores around the country held special sales in an effort to stimulate individual consumption.

That same day, METI announced per­sonnel changes as a way of demonstrating its own flexible approach and put into place a provision that allows workers to take the extra time on Monday mornings instead of Friday afternoons. As one bureaucrat put it, this “enables a person to have a good time on Sunday nights.”

keizaikai magazine
The project team comprises 34 members, with an average age of 35 years, who are seen as likely to have advanced to executive levels by 2030.