The land and internal affairs ministries admitted Friday they may have padded their employment rates of people with disabilities, following the launch of a government investigation into the matter.
Nearly 10 ministries are suspected of having inflated their figures routinely for over 40 years. The revelation is likely to spark criticism of the government given that it has long called on the private sector to hire more people with disabilities.
Ministries and agencies are believed to have misrepresented the rates by including in their head counts personnel with relatively mild disabilities who do not carry disability certificates. Officials at the land and internal affairs ministries have said that people without the disability certificates may have been included in the calculations.
The true hiring rates across the ministries are now expected to be less than 1 percent — far lower than the government target of 2.5 percent for its own hiring, and below half of the publicly announced rates. They are also likely to be significantly lower than the goal set for the private sector.
In order for public institutions to act as a role model for the private sector, their target hiring rate is set higher, at 2.5 percent of total employees, while that of businesses is 2.2 percent. If a company with more than 100 employees fails to reach the target rate of 2.2 percent, a fine of ¥50,000 ($451) per employee per month is charged and in some cases its name is disclosed. The labor ministry, which oversees the system, is currently considering lowing the size threshold to begin fining companies with more than 50 employees.
The alleged miscounting of disabled personnel at the ministries is said to date back to 1976, when employment of people with disabilities became mandatory. A law promoting the employment of people with disabilities requires the central and local governments and businesses to hire, in principle, people with physical disability or mental disability certificates, as well as those with intellectual disabilities.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has said it is checking the exact number of personnel with disabilities and will notify the labor ministry as soon as possible. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is also looking into its past practices, but an official said it may be difficult to confirm all the cases as some people may not have reported their disability status when they were hired.
The labor, environment and industry ministries said that they are also currently checking their reported data, while the agricultural ministry said its figures may have been inflated by mistake. The National Police Agency said it found no misrepresentation after checking the data it reported on June 1 last year.
The labor ministry requires government agencies to report employment rates of staff with disabilities as of June 1 every year. But there is no system to check whether the figure is true or not. In June the ministry began investigating ministries and agencies over the allegedly routine practice, after receiving several inquiries since April about how to calculate the employment rates of disabled people, according to government sources.
“It is a big problem if the government has carried out the designation of people with disabilities arbitrarily,” said Katsunori Fujii, the chief of the Japan Council on Disability. “If it has covered things up for over 40 years, it means the check-and-balance system was not functioning.”
As of June 1, 2017, about 6,900 people with disabilities were said to be hired by 33 national administrative agencies, or 2.49 percent of their total head count on average, achieving the then target of 2.3 percent.
Meanwhile, about 496,000 people with disabilities were working in private companies — an average of 1.97 percent of their total employees — as of June last year. Both figures were record highs.It is thought that the suspected practice of padding the employment rates for central government may be because of hiring difficulties stemming from factors such as long working hours and unexpected assignments such as preparing for Diet sessions.
Akira Nagatsuma, acting head of the leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and also a former labor minister, called for deliberations at the Diet, saying, “This is a typical example of being easy on one’s fellows while being hard on the private sector. It’s outrageous.”