Reform and Change in Contemporary Japanese Public Administration

Dr. Koichi Kawai
Panel Code

The past twenty years were an era of administrative reform in Japan. Until the 1980s, Japanese bureaucracy had been considered as one with high ability to make a significant contribution to economic development. However, the paradigm change was strongly required for Japanese administration after the end of successful economic growth. Thus, pursuant to the global trend of administrative reforms, the last two decades witnessed the series of extensive administrative reforms not only in government institutions but also in different public policy areas. These include decentralisation, regulatory reforms, restructure of public sector organisations, and so on.
This panel will altogether discuss the consequences of Japanese governmental reforms with a special focus on changes caused by the reforms: whether and how changes have been made, and if the reforms do not result in changes, why the unchanged situations happen.
In doing so, this panel will comprise five papers that explore reform and change in public administration and policy in both central and local governments of Japan. Kido’s paper will explore the consequence of decentralization reform by examining the relation between the city category established in the decentralization and public policy provision at Japanese municipalities. Hayakawa’s paper will analyse changes of regulator’s role in the policymaking process, focusing on the regulatory policy reform for health or safety issues. Morikawa’s paper will report governments’ attempts to make public policies efficient with ‘big data,’ identifying barriers of data utilization they have faced. Kawai’s paper will test a hypothesis in the study of the institutional design of administrative agencies. It will explore how administrative agency independence changed in Japan. Iizuka’s paper will address the trajectories and consequences of agency reform or ‘agencification’ in the central government with a focus on its metamorphosis and the agencies’ perception about reforms captured by a survey.
Overall, by exploring multiple reform cases in contemporary Japan from various angles, this panel will contribute to discussion not only on Asian and Pacific studies but also as to empirical and theoretical studies of public administration and policy.