Local governments in areas affected by the tsunami of March 2011 continue to be short in personnel following the disaster. People have been dispatched by local governments from across Japan, and other means of human resource support has been provided, but even so there still remains a shortfall.
The national government, companies, NPOs and other organizations have assisted local governments in affected areas to begin making use of personnel from the private sector. Below we will discuss the case of Namie Town in Fukushima Prefecture, which is actively doing so.
Facilitating human resource support
According to data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 1,980 people working at local governments across Japan have been dispatched to the affected prefectures, cities, towns and villages as of April 1 this year. Some 300 of these are private sector employees who were hired by their local governments with fixed-term contracts. Local governments of the affected cities, towns and villages are also hiring employees with fixed-term contracts. Funds have been secured under the ministry’s recovery scheme and employees are being dispatched from the private sector. Employees from the Reconstruction Agency are also starting to move into affected areas, and so human resource support from the private sector is taking place in various forms.
Having said that there is still a shortfall, which at April 1 stood at 431 people. Nearly 150 of these positions are in the cities of Ishinomaki and Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture. Many of the understaffed positions are civil engineers and construction specialists, but there are also shortfalls in industry development, tourism and public relations for example, and so further use of private sector is anticipated.
The Ministry made changes to the employment scheme in March this year to encourage more staff from the private sector and the third sector to be dispatched to affected areas. Private sector employees remain staff of their companies and are hired as fixed-term employees of local governments. Their salaries etc are paid by taxes implemented for recovery.
People from the private sector are also being hired as employees of the Reconstruction Agency and relocated to affected areas. In addition to people dispatched from companies, young people who have returned from service overseas and retired civil servants are also being hired, with 51 people sent to affected areas as of May this year.
The Ministry and the Reconstruction Agency have approached economic organizations such as the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) with regard to the possible dispatch of their employees under the employment schemes.
A need for efforts outside the scheme
Local governments in affected areas are hiring private sector employees and the scheme is progressing, but the scheme alone is not enough. Important first is public relations work which can attract the necessary personnel. For example when dispatching personnel from the private sector, appropriate plans are necessary as is a matching of the needs of the local government. The administrative workload after the dispatch is also an issue.
The Nippon Foundation and other private organizations are working to address these issues via a platform for recovery staff which encompasses cities, towns and villages. They will establish a team of consultant specialists who will work on locating personnel which matches the needs of local governments, and which may be formed within the current financial year.
Case-study: Employment in Fumie Town; securing pro-active personnel
Many local governments face a shortage in personnel, but Namie Town in Fukushima Prefecture is one place making active use of the scheme and recruiting private sector staff. Residents of Namie Town have relocated due to the damaged nuclear power plant, to areas administrated by 600 different local governments across Japan. Local government staff in Namie have a large amount of work related to recovery on top of their regular work. After collaborating with a non-profit organization based in Tokyo, the town succeeded in employing two people from the private sector.
“What we want are people who we can think and create together with,” says Fumitaka Kambara, an employee in the recovery section. The recovery work in front of him of course has no precedent, and he says he is looking for people who possess certain specialties in order to proceed with building a new town together. The town needs personnel who are capable at project management or can promote agreement through dialogue for example, and succeeded in securing a person of each of these types with the support of NPO ETIC. Under the scheme one of the new staff is a recovery employee of the Ministry and the other is employed under the dispatch system of the Reconstruction Agency.
Leveraging the power of the private sector in various ways
Kambara says that identifying issues is the key when employing from the private sector. For example when creating job ads it is not enough to simply state the job title but is necessary to explain sufficiently what state the town is in, what problems it faces and what they are aiming for. Koji Uchiyama from ETIC, who were involved in the hiring process from the beginning, says that if issues and expected roles are described in detail then people who feel this is the job for them will express their interest. Even if the work is very specific or peculiar, there should be at least one person who comes forward. The employment seminar held in Tokyo was successful and the number of applicants far exceeded the number of positions available.
The perspective offered by the private sector is a new one for local government. Kambara illustrates this with an example of project management, saying that while they had checked if things had gone as planned or not, it was suggested to him to make all results easy to see, as well as methods that provide feedback and raise motivation.
Recruiting for public relations
Namie Town intends to employ more people from the private sector, and are progressing on hiring someone for public relations work. The town currently issues a publication twice a month and makes information available to residents through its website and other means, but some residents say there is not much information. Kambara says there is a mismatch occurring between what information residents want and what the town is putting out. He also says communication with residents taking refuge in locations all over the country is of vital importance and that improvement is necessary.
Namie Town is considering recruitment in other fields as well as they examine needs and issues. The town acts as a new model for local governments, having collaborated with the Reconstruction Agency and NPOs like ETIC to hire people, and wishes to speed up further developments using these as a base.
(Translated by Nate Hill)Tweet