Japan's labor ministry embroiled in fresh data gathering scandal

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-30 00:07:14|Editor: yan
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TOKYO, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Japan's labor ministry said it has found flaws in another survey related to jobs and wages, with the scandal marking the second such time this month erroneous methods have been revealed to have been used to gather official governmental statistics, local media reported Tuesday.

The latest flawed survey, according to the labor ministry, has resulted in the ministry's basic statistics on wage structure being compiled using faulty methods and the calculation of minimum wages being incorrect based on the erroneous figures.

The ministry said that the particular survey, which purportedly aims to provide a clear gauge of wage payment and structure based on employment type or occupation, had seen ministry inspectors cut corners in collecting the key data, such as by not hand-delivering questionnaires to businesses and collecting them, and giving shortened deadlines to respondents.

Along with calculating minimum wages, the statistics are also vital in calculating income losses to those who have died in accidents, the ministry admitted.

Last month, the labor ministry initially came under fire for releasing faulty jobs and wage data spanning a period of a decade or more that resulted in more than 20 million people not receiving their full benefits.

Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry subsequently found that top bureaucrats and other senior officials at the ministry knowingly and systematically covered up the improper method for collecting the data, which serves as a recognized barometer of the nation's employment situation.

Key data was collected from only a third of the 1,400 companies required to be surveyed in Tokyo since 2004, the ministry said of the initial scandal.

The ministry is supposed to survey all businesses with employees totaling at least 500 people to compile its official Monthly Labor Survey.

It has been revealed that a systematic practice of referring to a manual mandating a diluted method of gathering data available inside the ministry, may have led to the years of faulty data being collected and released.

Local media reported that the manual, updated every few years and given to those in charge of the survey, included nebulous phrases such as "accuracy of the data can be ensured without surveying all businesses."

The deletion of such phrases since 2015 has led to suspicions that those in charge had tried to conceal their wrongdoings.

Labor Minister Takumi Nemoto conformed that the vague phrasing had indeed been removed from the manual and that government statistics that are supposed to be accurate at all times, as they serve as the basis for policy making, had been undermined.

The improper method used for data collection has led to the government being forced to revise the state budget for fiscal 2019 and address the fact that unemployment insurance and workers' compensation in some fields, applicable to 20.15 million people and to the tune of 53.75 billion yen (490.84 million U.S. dollars), has gone unpaid.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday in a policy speech on the first day of the new Diet session, was forced to apologize for the scandal that has led to serious public mistrust in the ministry and the wider government.

"I'm aware that the faulty surveys conducted over many years have violated people's trust in social security. I apologize to the Japanese people for this. We will reimburse underpaid unemployment benefits and workers compensation as swiftly as possible using simple procedures," the prime minister said of the issue.

Members of the opposition camp have called for the resignation of Nemoto to account for his ministry's lax grip over the proper methods used to gather vital labor-related data.