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.