In April 2000, the Comprehensive Decentralization Law was enforced in an attempt to clarify the division of roles between central and local governments, to eliminate the program for clerical work commissioned to outside agencies, and to set up rules for the central government's interference.
Each local government is expected to practice its administration according to the regional realities upon its own judgment and responsibility.
The LAB plans and drafts the system of local self-government suited for the age of regional decentralization.
At the moment, the LAB is working on regional sovereignty reforms in joining forces with the Government of Japan as one unit. The LAB will continue its efforts to establish“regional sovereignty”where all regional inhabitants can think on their own, act voluntarily, and hold themselves responsible for their own actions and choices.
A nationwide campaign conducted for promoting merger since 1999 has resulted in considerable progress being made in the merger of municipalities: there were 3,232 municipalities as of March 31, 1999,and only 1,727 as of March 31, 2010. However, differences are noted in the status of progress made in specific regions, and 457 municipalities have populations of less than 10,000.
The LAB must continue efforts to increase the scale and ability of basic autonomous bodies, in order to cope with regional sovereignty reforms, declining population, an aging society with fewer children, and other problems. In addition to the merger of municipalities, the LAB will therefore provide diverse options including wide-ranging collaboration with nearby municipalities and the reception of assistance from their prefectures, in an attempt to step up the administrative and financial foundations of autonomous bodies.
To establish a society with regional sovereignty, each local public entity needs to work voluntarily on administrative reforms so that safe and high-quality public service is rendered securely, efficiently, and appropriately.
The LAB actively strives to promote local administrative reforms by conducting a follow-up on the status of administrative reforms of each local government, publishing the findings for citizens in a comparable form, and making advanced cases of regional administrative reforms known to the public.
[Promoting local e-governments] (Fig. B)
Along with the advances made in information and communication technology (ICT), the LAB provides varied support to the local government, helping them to perform efficient administration and enhancing residents'services via ICT by arranging the foundation for electronic application and other formalities, promoting their use, and ensuring information security.
[Network system for basic residents' register]
The Basic Resident Register Network is an indispensable foundation for building electronic central and local government. This network eliminates the need to attach a copy of the resident's record in various administrative procedures and the need to submit a report on the current pensioner's status in various pension programs. Recently, the network has helped to elucidate the situation of pension records yet to be integrated. Moreover, the Basic Resident Register card with a photo of the resident can be used as a public ID. Once the resident acquires an "electronic certificate," it can be used to authenticate himself/herself in electronic applications made through the internet as well.
Now that society has greeted the age of full-fledged regional decentralization, the Regional Power Creation Group assists local public entities in actively responding to such important challenges as the need to respond promptly to current trends, plan and draft new policies at all times, promote "green decentralization reforms," the autonomous settlement zone scheme, and the training and reactivation of regional human resources, implement community-building projects, promote the autonomy of scarcely populated region and the migration/exchange from cities to rural areas, reactivate central city districts, promote the building of coexisting communities, take actions to promote regional culture, preserve regional environments and national land, combat the problem of an aging society with fewer children, and promote the greater regional use of information technology, international exchange, and cooperation.
[Promoting "regional decentralization reforms"]
As part of regional sovereignty reforms, the LAB maximizes the use of energy, food, or historic/cultural assets and other regional resources in line with reforms in administrative and financial programs, and works to reactivate communities and the rebirth of bondage, thereby turning a social structure based on central sovereignty into a low-carbon one based on decentralized autonomy, local production and local consumption, in an attempt to transform into "a society of regional sovereignty that increases regional self-sufficiency and wealth-producing capability."
[Promotion of the self-support settlement region framework]
In response to the emergence of a society with declining population, the progress made in regional sovereignty reforms, and other changes in the social situation, the LAB assists regions in increasing their "community power" in collaboration with local public entities, inhabitants, and other stakeholders. At the same time, toward realizing the "self-support settlement region framework"where a central city and surrounding municipalities collaborate under an agreement, the LAB will, in collaboration with the relevant ministries, take measures to prevent an outflow of people by securing the functions necessary for life in each zone, including regional cities and nearby regions.
[Going global on a regional level]
The LAB promotes one of the world's largest human exchange projects (the JET program) in promoting international exchange on a regional level and enhancing language education, provides administrative and life information for non-Japanese inhabitants, promotes the granting of assistance for their daily lives and the coexistence of different cultures in the community, and takes various other measures for internationalization.
[Enhancing the local public employee system]
In view of major changes in the environment surrounding local government, people from various fields focus closely on the way the local public employee program ought to be. Aiming to establish a public employee system that supports the players in future regional decentralization, the Public Employee Department (PED) is supposed to conduct the necessary reforms. The PED will work to win inhabitant confidence and understanding by establishing an ethics system for local public employees and the full numbers of personnel, wages, and service hours of local public employees.
[Building a worker-friendly workplace]
The PED promotes the establishment of childcare leave, nursing-care insurance, and other leave/holiday programs, to enhance mutual aid and other welfare programs, and to build a safe, comfortable workplace, thereby striving to build a workplace environment where local public employees can enjoy job security.
[Planning and drafting an election system]
The election system is the most important for citizens to participate in politics and is the basis of Japan's democratic politics.
The Election Department (ED) plans and drafts policies in an attempt to establish the election system as the one that fairly and effectively reflects the will of citizens in national and regional politics.
[Exercising appropriate election management]
The ED ensures that elections are conducted appropriately and, in order to increase election awareness, collaborates with The Association for Promoting Fair Elections and other entities in an attempt to promote fair elections. Moreover, the ED provides assistance in e-voting to facilitate voter convenience and increase vote count efficiency.
[Operating the political fund system appropriately]
For the sound development of democracy, the ED works to operate, plan, and draft the Political Fund Regulation Law, which regulates the publication, provision, and reception of the incomes and revenues of political funds, and the Party Subsidies Law, which stipulates party subsidies.