Photo/IllutrationLabor minister Takumi Nemoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The government will be forced to dole out hundreds of millions of yen in unpaid insurance benefits because of a long-standing flaw in a labor ministry survey used to determine the payments.

Benefits received from employment insurance and workers' accident compensation insurance programs are decided on the basis of the Monthly Labor Survey. However, a crucial part of the ministry's survey has covered only one-third of the offices and factories in Tokyo that it should have investigated since 2004.

Because of that oversight, the average salaries were different from those in cases where the survey was correctly carried out. This meant that many people received lower benefits than they were entitled to.

"The total amount to be paid will reach several hundreds of millions of yen (several millions of dollars)," said a high-ranking labor ministry official.

The ministry is looking into who may have been short-changed so that it can rectify the situation.

The ministry looks into worker salaries and other items on a monthly basis through prefectural governments and announces the results.

Employment insurance is a program to support living costs for people who are looking for new employment after losing their jobs. Recipients can receive amounts equivalent to 50 to 80 percent of their former monthly wage for a limited period.

The upper and lower limits of the daily benefits are calculated on the basis of the average salaries in the monthly survey.

Workers' accident compensation insurance is a program for people who are recognized by labor authorities as having suffered injuries or diseases on the job or while going to or returning from their workplaces. Such individuals are entitled, in principle, to receive a benefit equivalent to 80 percent of their wages.

When the average salaries of the Monthly Labor Survey change significantly, the benefit amounts also change.

At a news conference held following a Cabinet meeting on Jan. 8, labor minister Takumi Nemoto said he received a report from ministry officials about the flawed survey on Dec. 20 and immediately ordered the divisions concerned to carry out a thorough investigation.

On Dec. 21, however, the ministry announced the final results of the monthly survey for last October without mentioning the problem.

On Jan. 9, the ministry released the preliminary results of the survey for last November, but the figures were still based on the flawed method.

Ministry officials said the entity is required by ministry ordinance to announce the results of the Monthly Labor Survey by the 10th of each month, but that they did not have time to modify the results in accordance with the correct method.