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Administrative Reform and Administrative Responsibility: The Case of Japan


In this paper, I introduce the history of major administrative reforms of Japan and elucidate the views to administrative responsibilities in these administrative reforms.

The central government of Japan has implemented major administrative reforms three times. These reforms covered various areas, including cabinet system, administrative organization system, civil service system, and inter-governmental system. The plans of these reforms have been formulated by the councils which were established temporarily. These councils were the First Extraordinary Administration Research Council (the First Council, established in 1963), the Second Extraordinary Administration Research Council (the Second Council, established in 1981) and the Administrative Reform Council (established in 1996).

In this paper, I examine, among various meanings of administrative responsibilities, how the three councils had evaluated each meanings. For this purpose, I classify the various responsibilities into the three concepts which are derived from the theories of administrative responsibilities dating back to Friedrich and Finer debate. The three concepts are (1) responsibility as ability, (2) responsibility as extent, and (3) accountability. Responsibility as ability is the responsibility of each administrative organ fulfilled by resolving public issues actively and autonomically. Responsibility as extent means the extent of each administrative organ to have a responsibility for dealing with public issues within society. Accountability is the external type of responsibility in which the public and the congress hold administrative organs accountable for their activity through formal institution.

Considering the views to administrative responsibilities of each council, I note the impact of the socioeconomic contexts. Each council had been established under different socioeconomic contexts including the scale of revenue, the degree of trust in the government, and the demands from other countries. I show these contexts influenced not only the contents of the reform but also the views on administrative responsibilities.

The overview of the results of this study is following.

The First Council emphasized responsibility as ability and responsibility as extent. Due to high economic growth and strong need to improve social infrastructure, the First Council expected administrative organs to actively improve social structure using increasing revenue.

The Second Council recommended improving responsibility as ability, but reducing responsibility as extent. During this period, the central government of Japan, like other developed countries, faced the oil shock. The government decided to adopt such views in order to sustain the welfare state.

The Administrative Reform Council focused on the introduction of accountability. The reasons for the high commitment were the criticisms of unclear administration from other countries, administrative failures and scandals, and the change of government.

Lastly, I briefly summarize the view towards administrative responsibility from 2000 to 2020 in Japan. During this period, the government has expanded responsibility as extent through establishing agencies and improved responsibility as ability based on introducing various methods.

This presentation contributes to the clarification of the relationship between the socioeconomic environment, the views of the person in charge of administrative reform and the content of administrative reform.


administrative reform, responsibility, accountability