Reshuffle 'a nod to working women' in Japan

SHINZO ABE: Japan's Prime Minister.
SHINZO ABE: Japan's Prime Minister.

The Japanese government has appointed four women as ministry bureau chiefs in its latest reshuffle of senior bureaucrats, reflecting the intent of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to amplify the role of working women in a society.

Japan announced the appointments of senior central government officials on Friday, in the first such reshuffle since the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs was established to unify the management of appointments.

The number of senior female bureaucrats will rise to 15 from the previous eight, at 11 ministries and agencies, following the appointments in the first round of personnel reshuffles.

"We appointed the officials [to positions] in Kasumigaseki's bureaucratic nerve centre to have [government officials] work under unified direction toward [implementing] the government's policy," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a news conference on Friday.

The government stressed that the most important aspect of the personnel reshuffles is to actively promote women to leading positions.

Kazumi Okamura, prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, was named director general of the Justice Ministry's Human Rights Bureau. Naoko Munakata, deputy director general of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, was promoted to director general of the ministry's Trade and Economic Co-operation Bureau.

Okamura and Munakata will be the first female bureau chiefs in the two ministries.

The Foreign Ministry as well as the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry will also have a new female bureau chief.

Naoko Saiki, director general for cultural affairs at the Foreign Ministry, has been promoted to director general of the Economic Affairs Bureau. She is the wife of Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki.

In addition, Yoshiko Ando, head of the Worker's Compensation Department within the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry, was promoted to chief of the ministry's Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau.

The government aims to raise the percentage of female bureaucrats in key government posts to about 3 per cent by the end of fiscal 2015.

Though the rate was 2.2 per cent as of October, a senior government official said the government will certainly achieve the goal.

Secondly, the government places importance on the reappointment of personnel across ministries and agencies as part of efforts to address vertical divisions in the administrative system.

The government said a chief at the Finance Ministry's Co-ordination Division of the Financial Bureau is to assume the post of deputy director general at the welfare ministry's Social Welfare and War Victims' Relief Bureau.

He is not intended to return to the Finance Ministry, but is to complete his bureaucratic career at the welfare ministry, a senior government official said.

The number of posts in the personnel exchange programme, however, increased by only two from a previous 53 at the 11 ministries and agencies.

Thirdly, some personnel changes apparently reflected links with Abe. Hajime Hayashi, who served as an executive secretary to the prime minister during the first Abe Cabinet, was appointed director general of the Foreign Ministry's European Affairs Bureau.

A government official said Abe instructed the Foreign Ministry to offer a bureau chief position to Hayashi.

The second round of reshuffles, scheduled for July 18, is expected to be carried out for seven other ministries and agencies.

In addition to promoting an increasing number of female officials, the government plans to introduce personnel from external organisations. It will likely appoint a private citizen to the post of director general at the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, sources said.

- The Washington Post