National / Politics

Japan's labor minister survives no-confidence motion over data scandal

Kyodo

The Lower House has rejected a no-confidence motion against labor minister Takumi Nemoto that was submitted by opposition parties in protest over his handling of the ministry’s release of faulty jobs data.

The motion, which called for Nemoto’s resignation, was voted down Friday by the ruling bloc led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, which holds a majority in the Lower House.

The rejection reflects “an understanding that I have done my duties properly,” Nemoto told reporters after the vote.

Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan told reporters that the motion was submitted over Nemoto’s inappropriate handling of the scandal.

The faulty collection of monthly labor data over nearly 15 years resulted in the underpayment of work-related benefits to more than 20 million people and raised doubt about the accuracy of government statistics.

Opposition parties accused Nemoto of involvement in an alleged government attempt to make the prime minister’s Abenomics economic policy package appear more successful by inflating wage data.

In monthly labor surveys, the ministry is required to gather results from all businesses in the country with 500 or more employees. But it had only surveyed a third of the roughly 1,400 such businesses in Tokyo since 2004.

In January last year, the ministry began using software to make it appear that the necessary data had been collected, leading to a sudden rise in wage figures.

Opposition parties also accuse Motoya Nakae, a former Abe secretary, of exerting his influence when the labor ministry changed its methodology for the collection of wage samples, contributing to increased figures for real wages.

They also claim that Nemoto is hiding figures that suggest average real wages actually dropped in 2018 from the previous year.