First, the Japanese government decided to cut the salaries of civil servants by 7.8 percent within two years, and also suggested that their retirement benefits be slashed by 15 percent, a figure equivalent to approximately ￥4 million.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan also expressed their belief that since the salaries of civil servants were being cut, politicians should set an example with their actions during these tough times. As a result it was decided that the annual allowances of each member of the Diet should be cut by ￥3 million, which is equivalent to a 14 percent decrease in each member’s yearly income.
From Japan, we can see how, in the face of a worsening deficit and huge post-disaster reconstruction fees, the government considered the issue of the overall salary structure of society, and cut the higher salaries enjoyed by civil servants, members of the Diet and government leaders. They also avoided putting too much of an economic burden on disadvantaged groups.
This not only effectively lowered the government’s deficit; it also helped the Japanese government reach its goal of decreasing the salary gap between governments employees and the public. Of course, while this policy was being carried out, the Japanese government came up with strong reasons for it, as well as data to show why such moves were necessary, consistently explaining these things to the public.
This allowed all of Japan’s civil servants to understand the reasons behind the reductions in their salaries, while also allowing the government to meet public expectations about social fairness and justice, and making it easier to gain the support of the opposition political party.
Perhaps Japan’s experience is inextricably linked to its own special time, place and political factors, and cannot be totally replicated in Taiwan. However, adopting Japan’s approach could allow those in Taiwan who believe they were exploited to regain a sense of fairness, while also allowing the ruling and opposition parties to find a balance between their widely divergent views.
It would surely be worthwhile to look into whether Taiwan can achieve something similar to Japan.
Tsai Zheng-jia is a research fellow and division head of the Second Research Division at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Drew Cameron