Photo/IllutrationDemonstrators chant to upbeat music and hold a banner that says, “(Employers) can have workers as much as they like for minimum wage? Stop the discretionary working system,” in front of JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo on Feb. 25. (Shun Niekawa)

Hundreds marched against the expansion of the “discretionary working system,” in which workers are paid for a predetermined set number of hours rather than the actual time worked, in front of JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo on Feb. 25.

Banners and placards were waved as protesters chanted, “Do not make us work overtime, every day, every night,” in the demonstration held by Aequitas, a grass-roots association that has been calling for an increase in the minimum wage.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is planning to expand the existing system to have more people work under discretionary labor contracts that factor in a predetermined number of hours, but do not pay for additional hours worked beyond that.

Abe has argued that the reforms would reduce overwork by enabling employees on discretionary contracts to work more flexible hours.

Opposition camps are arguing against that change at the current Diet session on the basis that the data cited by Abe turned out to be inappropriate.

“I feel that the discretionary working system will more likely to make us work longer hours as I see people around me who work under such a system,” said Satoru Takahashi, 25, an information technology company worker in Tokyo.

Takahashi joined the demonstration after questioning the government’s handling of the inappropriate data.

He added, “I think long working hours and the number of those who will die after working too hard will increase if we expand the system while keeping the current situation ambiguous.”

Mitsuko Uenishi, professor of vocational skills development and career education at Hosei University, criticized the government's use of flawed data at a public hearing during a Lower House Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 21 and called for the system’s expansion to be scrapped.

She said, “Under the discretionary working system that is currently in place, most workers have little discretion and cannot choose the terms of their jobs.

“The system will just increase people’s working hours.”