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Just 13% of Japanese gov't workers teleworked most of week during 2nd COVID-19 emergency

A nearly empty office is seen in Tokyo's Minato Ward in November 2020. (Mainichi/Shinnosuke Kyan)

TOKYO -- Only around 13% of national government employees worked remotely "four to five times a week" during the second COVID-19 state of emergency earlier this year, a survey by a Cabinet bureau showed, amid the Japanese government's call for private companies to reduce the number of commuters by 70%.

    The Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs carried out the poll from March 15 to 26 and received responses from 10,457 randomly selected workers at government ministries and agencies. When asked about teleworking from home or elsewhere during the second coronavirus emergency between Jan. 8 and March 21, about 14% said they worked remotely "once a week" and approximately 49% said they did so "two to three times a week," while a total of some 25% responded, "three times or less a month" or "did not work remotely (during that time period)."

    While the percentage of government employees who said they worked remotely "four to five times a week" almost doubled from the 7.5% during the first state of emergency in April-May 2020, it's still far below the 70% reduction goal for office commuters that the government has set for private firms.

    Meanwhile, nearly 60% of respondents said work productivity dropped when they teleworked from home or elsewhere compared to when they were at their office. On the other hand, over 50% said productivity improved compared to when they worked remotely during the first COVID-19 emergency last spring, with nearly 40%, or the largest portion, citing an "improved communications environment" such as communication equipment. The government plans to publish the survey's findings in detail in the near future.

    Regarding government employees' work, quite a few tasks still involve around the premise that they work from their office, such as responding to Diet sessions and drafting bills. In March, the government revised its roadmap for promoting teleworking among its employees and set a goal of "preparing a system where necessary public services can be provided under any circumstances" by fiscal 2025. It says it plans to accelerate the introduction of satellite offices and improve work hour management.

    Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura requested the Japan Business Federation and other business organizations during a May 11 meeting that they put all-out effort into the 70% reduction of commuters to cut down the number of people going out on weekdays. He has also asked companies to release their data on such efforts.

    (Japanese original by Kazuhiko Hori, Political News Department)

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