Employing the mentally ill

A law to promote the employment of disabled people has succeeded in increasing their numbers in the nation’s workforce. It obligates both the government and private sectors to employ a certain number of physically and mentally disabled people. The government plans to submit a revision bill to the current Diet session to expand the scope of the law to cover people suffering from mental illnesses as well.

Although the obligatory employment of mentally ill people will start in April 2018 after a five-year grace period, the revision will play an important role in helping eliminate prejudice and discrimination against such people.

The system to promote employment of disabled people started in 1976, first covering physically disabled people. It began to cover mentally disabled people in 1998. From 2006, employers have been allowed to count mentally ill people whom they have voluntarily employed among the number of disabled people on their payrolls. The number of disabled people employed under the system has set a new record annually for nine consecutive years, reaching 380,000 in fiscal 2012.

Before the submission of the revision bill to the Diet, the government on April 1 raised the percentage of disabled people who must be employed in the total number of workers by 0.2 percentage points — 2 percent for companies, 2.2 percent for boards of education of prefectural governments, and 2.3 percent for the central and local governments. This increase — the first in 15 years — is a step forward in the right direction.

The obligatory employment system for the disabled works as follows: If a company is obligated to employ five disabled people in accordance with its size under the law, it must include physically or mentally disabled people or mentally ill people among the five.

Nearly 20,000 mentally ill people try to find jobs through public employment security offices annually. Many issues must be resolved to create an environment conducive to such people’s successful employment.

People diagnosed as suffering from mental illnesses often have trouble getting accustomed to new situations and have a tendency to quit jobs frequently even if they’re capable of doing the work. Employers must realize that by making certain well thought-out arrangements or measures, it is possible to have such people perform their duties in an acceptable manner.

Psychiatrists are pushing programs to help people who have suffered from schizophrenia or depression to return to work. Medical institutions should make further efforts to promote the integration of mentally ill people into society. If prejudice against such people is eradicated and if they can find meaningful employment, doctors believe they can make greater progress with their medical treatment.

There are some 3.5 million people throughout Japan suffering from mental illnesses. More than 600,000 people have been given mental health and welfare certificates, which show that they are covered by the law to promote the employment of disabled people. Greater transparency about their conditions will help decrease prejudice against them.

Employers and citizens need to realize that anybody can suffer from mental illnesses and tackle in earnest the issue of increasing employment of people suffering from such afflictions.

  • HaroldAMaio

    Employing people identified as having a mental
    illness is an admirable step, but please remember, most of us are
    not identified by our illness and are fully employed.

  • ume

    @Harold Maio ,while I totally agree with your sentiments, with the very upmost respect , I think we are talking about a whole different spectrum in Japan, especially in regards to conditions such as schizophrenia.

    In Japan, as you may well know, those with mental illness are often segregated from society, meaning they often lack social skills and education. I am very much in favour of those “mentally ill” (I hate that umbrella term) able to work doing so, however I don’t think it is really as simple as “heres a job, now do it.”

    My question would be of equality. I don’t believe for a minute that those on this programme (and introduced into a new job as a result of it) could be treated fairly – people (for example at least line managers/supervisors) would have to know about this individuals condition, and this would almost definitely lead to discrimination. Japan is well known for being very uneducated and unsympathetic to those with mental illness – an office environment would not change that.

    Also I would question how, in workaholic culture Japan, these people would be able to fit into the working environment, especially in terms of things like stress, bullying and overtime, which are, very sadly, incredibly common and difficult for even the most “mentally well” of us. I suspect the pressure often becomes too much for sufferers of many mental illnesses, hence the high turnover rate.

    I agree that anyone can suffer from mental illness, however labelling together “depression” and “schizophrenia” in the same sentence is dangerous. People should be dealt with on an individual basis, and given the help and support they need.

    Obviously this needs alot more thought – there are long term safety and social implications to be had, by employing someone with severe schizophrenia just because the government say they have to.