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Politics

Abe's approval rating climbs to 55%

Public divided on workplace reforms

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

TOKYO -- Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet rose to 55% in the latest public opinion poll by Nikkei Inc. and TV Tokyo.

In addition to a soaring stock market, the uptick may reflect growing expectations surrounding the cabinet's push for higher wages.

The approval rating climbed 5 percentage points from the previous survey, taken in mid-December, returning to a level comparable to the 56% of May 2017. Support had tumbled to 39% after the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election last July.

Approval among men rose 3 points to 59%, while support among women jumped 6 points to 49%. Support by those unaffiliated with a political party increased 4 points to 30%.

The government is preparing legislation on workplace reform, including a framework for compensating skilled professionals based on performance rather than time put in and eliminating overtime pay. This initiative was supported by 42% of respondents and opposed by 39%. Another provision that would keep overtime during the busiest months below 100 hours was viewed as "appropriate" by 41%, with 39% backing an even lower cap. Just 7% said more overtime should be allowed.

On public pension reform, the government is considering an option for potential beneficiaries to push back the start of payouts past the age of 70 in exchange for higher monthly benefits. Opponents of the measure came to 53%, compared with 31% in support.

Abe is up for re-election as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September. On who should be chosen next, Abe led the pack at 35%, followed by Shinjiro Koizumi -- chief deputy secretary-general and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi -- at 18% and former Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba at 17%.

Among LDP supporters, Abe was backed by 60%, well ahead of the 15% for the younger Koizumi and the 11% for Ishiba. Ishiba lost to Abe in the 2012 race for party president but garnered more votes among regional representatives. And while Ishiba has indicated plans to run in the upcoming race, the limited breadth of his support poses a hurdle.

The nationwide telephone survey was conducted Friday through Sunday, drawing 969 respondents for a response rate of 45.5%. The poll covered individuals 18 and older.

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