Sat, Jan 12, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Japan data scandal shifts budget

SAMPLING PROBLEMS:The labor ministry owes ¥53 billion in unpaid benefits to 20 million workers after it failed to survey one-third of large firms since 2004

AFP, TOKYO

Japan yesterday said it would have to amend its upcoming budget to fund compensation for people whose benefits were underpaid for years because of a scandal involving erroneous labor data.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare this week said that it has for years failed to collect complete data for its monthly employment report, which is closely watched as an indicator of wages and work hours.

The data help determine various government benefits, including employment insurance.

Officials are supposed to gather data from all firms with 500 or more employees, but in Tokyo only about one-third of 1,400 such firms were surveyed.

The scandal dates back to 2004 and a total of ¥53 billion (US$489.4 million) is to be repaid to 20 million workers, the ministry said.

“I have received a report from the labor and welfare ministry that they need to provide employment insurance and other payments retroactively,” government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters. “We will make adjustments to make a necessary budget allocation in the fiscal 2019 budget” for the year starting in April.

The government is probing dozens of other major data sets, he added.

Japanese Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Takumi Nemoto admitted he received a report about the problem as early as Dec. 20.

The ministry nevertheless went ahead and published data on Dec. 21 and Wednesday that it knew had sampling problems, raising questions about the reliability of official statistics in Japan.

The monthly labor survey has been watched by the government and the Bank of Japan as a clue for their economic policy decisions.

It is “extremely regrettable” that confidence in the survey was shaken, Suga said, while Nemoto voiced “sincere apologies for causing trouble to the people.”

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