National

Japan wage data errors undermine trust in government indicators, poll shows

Kyodo

Nearly 80 percent of people have lost trust in the government’s economic indicators in the wake of a recent revelation that years of faulty wage data have been released, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

The data issue has led to some unemployment benefits and workers compensation going unpaid.

In a nationwide opinion poll conducted Saturday and Sunday on 1,041 registered voters, the support rate for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet was nearly flat at 43.4 percent, after it fell to 42.4 percent in December from 47.3 percent in November apparently over wrangling in the Diet about the passage of a bill to accept more foreign workers.

The disapproval rate slightly declined to 42.3 percent from 44.1 percent in December.

The survey showed 78.8 percent of respondents do not trust official indicators after the government said Friday it had failed to pay over ¥50 billion in benefits to nearly 20 million people due to the labor ministry’s publishing of faulty jobs data for the past 15 years.

The sampling errors came to light after it was revealed that the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry had published its monthly labor survey without collecting enough data beginning in 2004.

Under existing rules, the ministry must review all business establishments in the country with 500 or more employees. But in Tokyo it had collected data from only a third of the roughly 1,400 such establishments, leading the data to show nationwide wages that were lower than they actually were.

Labor minister Takumi Nemoto said in a news conference there was a manual shared by those involved in compiling the data saying only some of the large firms needed to be surveyed, though he denied the data was systematically manipulated to make wages appear smaller than they actually were.

Some 69.1 percent of people polled in the weekend survey found Nemoto’s explanation and response to the matter insufficient, with only 18.0 percent saying the minister is addressing the issue properly.

The incident triggered a backlash not only from people receiving benefits and compensation but also corporate executives who have been repeatedly urged to raise wages by Abe’s administration. Among other recent developments, the public is supportive of the government’s response to South Korea’s top court rulings since last year ordering Japanese companies to compensate South Koreans for labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The survey showed 80.9 percent supported the Japanese government’s rejection of the court orders, with 11.3 percent against it.

Japan maintains that the issue of compensation was settled “completely and finally” under a bilateral accord to settle property claims signed alongside the 1965 Japan-South Korea treaty that established diplomatic ties.

Tokyo recently requested talks with Seoul as a Japanese steel-maker faced the imminent seizure of its assets in South Korea.

As for Abe’s announcement earlier in the month that the new era name will be revealed one month before the upcoming Imperial succession on May 1, 66.2 percent were in favor of the decision.

Era names are widely used in Japanese calendars, newspapers and official documents, along with the Gregorian calendar.

Regarding the House of Councilors’ election this summer, 31.9 percent said they will vote for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the proportional representation segment, 9.4 percent for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and 3.5 percent for Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner.

The survey contacted 746 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,206 mobile phone numbers, of which 1,041 provided valid answers.