Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe responds to questions from Seiji Osaka, far left, a lawmaker of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, at a Lower House Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 22. (Takeshi Iwashita)

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized again on Feb. 22 for an error-filled study that he used to promote planned labor reform bills, but he showed no intention of delaying the legislation.

The labor ministry has now acknowledged 117 abnormal figures in its study concerning overtime hours or other working conditions at 87 company offices or factories.

“I want to apologize again,” Abe said at the Lower House Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 22, mentioning that the data included more than 10,000 cases. “The labor ministry will scrutinize the data.”

The flaws have fueled the opposition camp’s calls for the ruling parties to scrap the reform bills, which would expand the “discretionary contract system” normally used by specialists and others who do not work regular hours.

The opposition parties say the changes would, in fact, lead to a proliferation of long working hours.

Abe, however, indicated that he still plans to submit and pass the bills during the current Diet session.

“We are going to create a plan in which people can work based on their preferred working style,” he said at the budget committee meeting. “We want to firmly proceed with preparations for the bills.”

His words came a day after the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare held a joint meeting with opposition parties to explain flaws in the research conducted in fiscal 2013 on labor conditions around the nation.

In one of the cases, the study said one office put in “45 hours” of overtime on a day, despite also saying that the same office’s overtime hours a month totaled “28 hours.”

In another case, an office’s overtime for one day was “five hours and 15 minutes.” But its overtime for a week was “four hours and 30 minutes,” and “four hours” in a month.

In yet another case listed in the study, an office worked “two hours and 30 minutes” of overtime for a day, but zero hours for both a week and a month.

A labor ministry official said the discrepancies could have been caused by “erroneous descriptions” or “input mistakes.”

Those working under the discretionary system are paid a predetermined amount based on the assumption that they will put in a certain amount of overtime.

Abe has said the reforms would reduce overwork by enabling discretionary contract employees to work more flexible hours.

Late last month in the Diet, Abe pushed that view by citing data from the study that showed people on discretionary contracts worked fewer hours than normal employees.

On Feb. 14, Abe retracted that remark and apologized, saying the data used was inappropriate. The study had compared data in a misleading manner.

“We have to thoroughly check (the results of) the study by comparing its data with the original ones,” Abe said Feb. 22.

Labor minister Katsunobu Kato had earlier said that the original information was lost.

However, he told the budget committee meeting on Feb. 22 that the data had been uncovered.

“When we thoroughly looked for them, we found them in our warehouse,” he said.

He also said the ministry would scrutinize the original data as soon as possible.

The government still plans to submit the bills to the Diet by the end of March, saying problems with the research data do not damage the appropriateness of the legislation.

Kato, however, also said the government is considering delaying the enforcement of the reforms by one year from the original schedule to April 2020.

“The ruling parties are discussing it,” Kato said. “A certain period will be necessary.”