June 29, 2018: The law deemed to be the foundation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's much-vaunted reform of how we work, or hataraki-kata kaikaku, passed the upper House of Councilors on this day. Most of its provisions, which simply amend other laws, will come into effect next April, so it's crucial we get a handle on them now.

The media bandy about the phrase "hataraki-kata kaikaku" (often translated as "work-style reform") as if it will save workers in Japan from the soul-crushing, death-defying work hours of workplaces past. But how will this new law really change the workplace? It's crucial that we know what's in it and how things will change from a legal perspective; then perhaps we can ponder what Abe's objectives are in pushing it through.

The Act to Overhaul Laws to Promote Workplace Reform (Hataraki-kata Kaikaku Kanren Ho) does not include an expansion of discretionary labor, one of many ways employers evade paying overtime. Abe's team had to exclude that, thankfully, after the labor ministry got busted manipulating data, as I described in a column earlier this year ("Dodgy data spared Japan's workers from a labor system that's ripe for abuse, for now," March 25¥).