Major party leaders held their first online debate Friday ahead of the July 21 Upper House election, with opposition chiefs voicing concern that ruling bloc-proposed employment deregulation may further worsen the working conditions of younger generations.

Opposition leaders also raised concerns over Japan’s planned participation from next month in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, saying such an accord could introduce cheaper labor and foreign-oriented employment rules that may result in the domestic labor situation deteriorating even further.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, defended the nation’s pending participation in the TPP negotiations, saying joining them won’t affect either the domestic labor market or government regulations on employment.

He also boasted that economic indicators have improved since his inauguration in December, and touted a growth plan he unveiled that aims to create 600,000 jobs.

“(Joining the) TPP (talks) won’t affect our country’s job market,” Abe assured viewers of Nico Nico Douga, Japan’s leading Net-based video service.

Democratic Party of Japan leader Banri Kaieda meanwhile demanded “thorough information disclosure” on the TPP negotiations, which Japan will enter from late July. “The government says (Japan’s participation in the negotiations) won’t affect (domestic employment), but we want explanations based on actual negotiations,” Kaieda said.

The issue that drew the biggest attention of Nico Nico Douga viewers, however, appeared to be a bill to strengthen regulations against child pornography. Many young manga and anime enthusiasts argue the definition of pornography in the legislation is vague and poses a threat to Japan’s pop culture.

During the session, Abe and Natuso Yamaguchi, head of New Komeito, the LDP’s ruling bloc ally, defended the bill, saying it is necessary to protect the rights of children and that it meets the demands of the international community.

The six participants from the opposition camp in the debate all opposed the bill, saying it could unfairly limit freedom of expression and undermine the nation’s manga and anime industry.

The six comprised Kaieda of the DPJ, Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii, Your Party head Yoshimi Watanabe, Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party) chief Ichiro Ozawa, Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima and Midori no Kaze (Green Wind) head Ikuko Tanioka.

Nippon Ishi no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) co-leader Toru Hashimoto didn’t attend the session, which took place at a hall in the Roppongi district of Minato Ward, Tokyo.

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