Japanese support rate for Abe’s Cabinet dips amid labor reform scandal in Diet


The public approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet has dropped 2.7 points to 48.1 percent, with nearly 70 percent of respondents seeing no need for passage of a labor reform draft bill in the current Diet session amid a scandal over flawed data, a Kyodo News poll showed Sunday.

The support rate in the nationwide survey, conducted Saturday and Sunday, compares to 50.8 percent in the previous survey taken in February.

The disapproval rate stood at 39.0 percent, up from 36.9 percent in the previous poll.

The survey found that 69.1 percent of respondents said it is not necessary to pass a labor reform bill during the current Diet session, which runs through June, while only 17.1 percent said the bill should be enacted.

Following the discovery of errors in government data, Abe said he would remove a key component of the bill that expands the system of rewarding workers based on fixed overtime work hours instead of actual hours worked. Ruling and opposition lawmakers are split over the labor reforms

Regarding the government decision to remove the key component from the envisioned bill, 60.9 percent said it was a matter of course, while 20.6 percent said it was not necessary to take out the portion.

Abe, however, insisted another component of the envisioned bill, exempting skilled professional workers with high wages from work-hour regulations, should be kept in the bill.

The so-called white collar overtime exemption system has been sought by business lobbies, while opposition parties and labor unions criticize the system, saying it will lead to “zero overtime pay.”

With respect to data compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare based on the 2013 survey, numerous errors were discover after Abe’s government insisted the average worker on a discretionary labor contract generally works shorter hours than a worker under a conventional contract.

Regarding constitutional amendments, including changes to the war-renouncing Article 9, 48.5 percent of the respondents said they oppose the change under the Abe government, while 39.2 percent said they support the change.

The Liberal Democratic Party is aiming for the amendments to the postwar pacifist Constitution, with Abe proposing to revise Article 9 by adding an explicit reference to the country’s Self-Defense Forces, while keeping intact the existing paragraphs of the article.