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TOKYO —

A government panel unveiled an action plan Tuesday to reduce long working hours and ensure equal treatment for regular and nonregular employees as Japan seeks to promote broad labor reform.

The panel headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling for a cap on overtime work hours and penalties on violators in the action plan compiled based on an agreement between Japan’s most powerful business lobby Keidanren and the labor union Rengo.

The maximum overtime work hours a month should not exceed 100 hours, even during busy seasons, according to the plan. If a busy period lasts for more than a month, average monthly overtime hours must not exceed 80 hours, a level said to cause serious health consequences.

Abe is spearheading the overhaul of the country’s deep-rooted culture of overwork, brought under the spotlight after the suicide of an overworked young female employee of advertising giant Dentsu Inc.

“The government has a critical role to play,” Abe told a meeting of the panel on work-style reform. The action plan will be meaningless unless it is put into legislation and enacted, the prime minister said, calling the year 2017 as a “starting point” for the country’s labor reform.

Under his Abenomics policy mix, Abe has been seeking to strengthen the deflation-hit economy. Labor reform is placed as one of his top priorities as Japan needs to boost productivity in the face of a shrinking population.

The government plans to prepare bills that will reflect the action plan and submit them to the Diet by the end of the year, officials said.

The plan states that overtime hours should be limited, in principle, to 45 hours a month, and not exceed 360 hours annually. Monthly overtime hours can exceed the limit six times a year, but must be below 100 hours.

The annual cap of 360 hours can be raised to 720 hours if an agreement is reached between management and a labor union.

Keidanren, or the Japan Business Federation, had argued for a 100-hour ceiling but Rengo, or the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, had demanded that it should be less. Abe urged them to settle for “less than” 100 hours.

The action plan called the cap a “historic reform,” as setting a clear limit on overtime hours has long been debated but never been realized.

Still, truck drivers and construction workers, for instance, will be exempt from the cap for five years. For doctors, the action plan states that further discussions on how to rein in overtime will be needed.

Another key feature of the plan by the panel, which also involves private-sector members, is to achieve “equal pay for equal work.” The plan says one of the proposed legislative changes includes making available an administrative process of resolving a dispute for free to workers demanding correction of unfair treatment.

The panel is seeking to fill the gap between full-time and temporary workers and ensure equal treatment not only in pay but also in welfare benefits and training opportunities.

Workers in Japan tend to work longer hours than in the United States and Europe, with death from overwork, or “karoshi” in Japanese, being a long unresolved issue.

Government data showed nearly 44%, or 4,416 of the 10,059 workplaces inspected by labor authorities between April and September last year, were found to have allowed illegally long work hours.

Other envisaged changes to Japan’s work system include promoting teleworking and making it easier for women with children as well as people fighting diseases to work. The plan also states that Japan needs to accept more highly skilled foreign workers.

© KYODO

https://www.japantoday.com/category/business/view/japan-eyes-cap-on-overtime-hours-equal-pay-under-labor-reform-plan

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TOKYO —

Public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has not been significantly shaken by the scandal over alleged influence-peddling in a cut-price land deal, even though a vast majority of respondents to a new Kyodo News poll remain doubtful about his version of events.

The approval rating for his cabinet slipped only to 52.4%, down just 3.3 percentage points from a survey on March 11-12, according to the nationwide telephone survey conducted Saturday and Sunday.

Yet 82.5% of respondents said the government has not done enough to dispel doubts concerning the sale of government land at a huge discount for construction of a school in Osaka, or allegations that Abe donated money to the school operator, the results released Sunday showed.

The disapproval rate for Abe’s cabinet stood at 32.5%.

Only 10.7% believe the government has provided convincing explanations, while 62.6% were “not convinced” with Abe’s denial of any involvement by himself or his wife Akie in the controversial land deal. Just 28.7% said they were convinced neither had any involvement.

Abe on Friday again dismissed accusations that he had donated 1 million yen to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, after Yasunori Kagoike, its head, repeated the accusation while testifying as a sworn witness in parliament the previous day.

The poll found that 58.7% said they cannot understand the explanation given by Abe, while 30.2% said otherwise.

On whether Akie should testify as a sworn witness in parliament, 52% said the first lady should, against 42.8% who said that was unnecessary.

On other key issues, 38.8% said they support the bill to punish people convicted of planning to carry out serious crimes, up 5.8 points after the cabinet approved the bill last week. Some 40% said they are opposed to the bill, which is similar to legislation which twice before failed to secure passage.

As for whether to allow the Japanese emperor to abdicate, as discussed by a government panel, 57.4% said they support revising the Imperial House Law to permanently allow emperors to relinquish the throne, while 34.6% are in favor of enacting legislation allowing only Japan’s current monarch, Emperor Akihito, to abdicate.

Asked about a proposal recently compiled as a Diet consensus and calling on the government to prepare such one-off legislation, 56.2% said they are in favor, while 34.9% are opposed.

By party, Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party remained dominant with 42.4% backing it, down just 1.4 points from the previous survey.

The support rating for the main opposition Democratic Party stood at 8.8%, and for Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, at 3.8%.

The survey covered 1,460 randomly selected households with eligible voters nationwide, with valid responses collected from 1,018 people.

 

https://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/abes-popularity-intact-but-handling-of-land-scandal-questioned-poll

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