Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came up with yet another catchphrase for his administration’s agenda — reforming people’s work style — as he reshuffled his Cabinet earlier this month. What he spelled out as the primary targets of this policy — the steep wage gap between irregular workers and regular full-time corporate employees, and the chronically long work hours for company workers — are both serious problems with broad economic and social repercussions, and are worth tackling. Never mind that Abe seems to be recycling the issues already highlighted in the plan for the “dynamic engagement of all citizens” adopted by his Cabinet in June. Abe says work-style reforms will constitute the “biggest challenge” to creating his “society where all citizens are dynamically engaged.”
He has assigned a Cabinet minister to address work-style reforms and plans to compile concrete plans of action to achieve the goals by the end of March. How far he intends to go in resolving these problems, including issues related to long-running labor practices and possible resistance from business management, remains unclear. The Abe administration should set specific targets in the promised efforts to make sure they don’t end in nothing more than symbolic gestures.