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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 June 17 - 23  > Government workers despite cuts in workforce and budget fight hard against COVID-19 crisis
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2020 June 17 - 23 [LABOR]

Government workers despite cuts in workforce and budget fight hard against COVID-19 crisis

June 20, 2020

Despite the cuts in jobs and public spending, national government employees in Japan have been working diligently, day and night, dealing with COVID-19 infections.

When infections with the new coronavirus began increasing in Japan, many government workers were assigned to respond to Japanese returnees from Wuhan, China and passengers on a virus-hit cruise ship. Braving the risk of COVID-19 infections, Health Ministry and medical-related government workers are also working very hard to protect people's health and lives. Government workers in charge of the provision of employment adjustment subsidies are now sacrificing their holidays to struggle to fulfill their duties to help business owners affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of national government workers, however, sharply dropped to about 290,000 now from the once 900,000.

Okabe Kanichi, president of the Japan Federation of National Public Service Employees' Unions (Kokko-roren), said, "Successive governments, under the name of administrative reform or structural reform, have promoted cuts in the number of public workers, replaced them with non-regular workers, and outsourced and privatized many services."

Okabe also said, "The national government significantly reduced the budget for the public health sector as well as for the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, and closed or merged public health centers in local communities. So, their expertise in administrative areas of each ministry cannot be fully utilized to protect people's safety and their right to a healthy life."

He continued to say that the provision of government employment adjustment subsidies or of cash benefits are being delayed because the government in the first place is understaffed and its administrative system is vulnerable due to a manpower shortage, and that the government, therefore, is contracting out paperwork tasks associated with the subsidy payments.

Okabe added, "To be ready for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections, the need is for the central government to stop cutting public services and restore the previous administrative system. The government should also abandon its plan to decrease the number of public hospitals and instead improve social welfare programs."

He explained that Kokko-roren is calling for basic labor rights to be granted to government workers so that they can dedicate themselves to their duties as public servants, not as servants of the powerful.
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