The Abe administration has begun discussions for tightening regulations on overtime work in an attempt to rectify the notoriously long working hours at Japanese firms — which not only threatens the health of company employees but is also blamed for leaving them with little time to spend with their families. This causes difficulties for couples raising children. The government’s resolve for pushing through this agenda will be tested by whether and how it will overcome anticipated opposition from business circles. The administration so far has a track record of pushing for deregulation of labor rules, such as exempting certain workers from work-hour regulations. It needs to demonstrate its seriousness by coming up with effective measures to reduce overtime work.

This seems to be another example of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s newfound interest in labor-friendly issues. Along with his bid to introduce an equal pay for equal work principle — supposedly to improve conditions for the nation’s growing ranks of irregular workers — the administration plans to consider a cap on overtime hours by revising the Labor Standards Law. It plans to feature the outline of the policies in a plan to be compiled next month for Abe’s pet project to “promote the dynamic engagement of all citizens.”

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