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57% against expansion of discretionary labor system: Mainichi poll

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen during a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on Feb. 22, 2018. (Mainichi)

Fifty-seven percent of respondents in a weekend Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll said they are against expansion of the so-called discretionary labor system, in which employees are paid based on fixed work hours instead of actual hours spent on the job, well over the 18 percent who supported the move.

The nationwide survey, which was conducted on Feb. 24 and 25, came as the government moves to submit to the Diet a set of work-style reform bills that include setting overtime caps and broadening the job categories in which the discretionary labor system can be adopted. The Cabinet has yet to approve the bills as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other officials have come under fire for citing flawed government data in responding to Diet questions related to the issue. The data in question contained an improper comparison of labor hours between regular workers and those employed under the discretionary labor system.

Even among supporters of the Abe Cabinet, 46 percent were against expanding the discretionary work system, while 29 percent were in favor of such a move, the survey found.

With regard to setting overtime caps to curb long work hours, 33 percent of pollees found the government's plan to limit the maximum monthly overtime to 45 hours, with an exception of no more than 100 hours in special cases, appropriate, while another 33 percent said stricter regulations should be in place. Another 13 percent of pollees called for an easing of regulations.

The survey also asked people about Nobuhisa Sagawa -- who has come under attack over false testimony he is suspected to have given in the Diet during his previous stint as the chief of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau -- and the pros and cons of him serving as National Tax Agency commissioner. Sagawa told the Diet that government records of negotiations with Moritomo Gakuen over the heavily discounted sale of a state-owned land lot to the school operator had been "discarded," but relevant government documents have recently turned up one after another. Sixty-eight percent of pollees said they, as taxpayers, are against Sagawa heading the tax agency, while 14 percent approved of the move.

As for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s leadership election scheduled for this coming September, 44 percent of pollees said Prime Minister Abe should be replaced as party president, surpassing the 41 percent who said he should stay on.

With regard to the Japanese government's announcement of its appreciation of the 2018 Nuclear Policy Review recently unveiled by the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump, which includes the development of low-yield nuclear warheads, 58 percent of respondents said they disapprove of the Japanese government's move, well over the 22 percent who were in favor of it.

The approval ratings of Prime Minister Abe's Cabinet rose to 45 percent in the survey, up 1 percentage point from the previous survey, while the disapproval rate dropped by 6 points to 32 percent.

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