Nearly 70% of ill and disabled people have difficulties working in Japan, report finds

Kyodo, JIJI

A total of 66.3 percent of people with illnesses or disabilities say they have difficulties balancing work and treatment or working with their condition, a government report showed Tuesday, indicating a lack of workplace support for them.

A labor ministry survey conducted in February last year drew responses from 1,000 such people aged between 20 and 64. Of them, 664 were working, 268 were not and 68 were on leave from work, according to the 2018 white paper on labor and welfare.

The report underlined a strong desire among people with illnesses or disabilities to be part of the workforce, with 84.5 percent of all respondents saying they want to work or continue working. Among the 268 nonworking respondents, 64.2 percent said they want to work.

For those who think they cannot work or continue working despite having the desire to do so, 50.6 percent said it is because they lack physical strength, and 36.9 percent pointed to a lack of flexible working hours and leave. Multiple answers were allowed.

A total of 30.3 percent also referred to difficulties in gaining understanding or support from their bosses or coworkers for their condition.

The ministry said it will strengthen support measures for companies that help people with illnesses and disabilities continue working.

The theme of the 2018 report is “to realize a society in which everyone can play an active role while fighting disability, illness and other hardships.”

Creating an environment where disabled people, cancer patients, those with incurable diseases and people facing other difficulties can be fully active in the workplace is important to achieving the dynamic engagement of all citizens — one of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy goals — the paper stressed.

The release of the annual white paper was originally slated for summer or autumn last year, but had been delayed due in part to the ministry’s response to a scandal over government statistics concerning the employment of people with disabilities.

The scandal, which involved central government agencies overstating the numbers of disabled workers they employed, has “severely damaged the trust of the public,” the report said.

The ministry, which is in charge of promoting the employment of people with disabilities, “deeply regrets” the incident, it said.

A total of 3,700 employees at 28 government bodies had been inappropriately counted as disabled workers as of June 1, 2017, according to a report announced by a third-party investigation panel in October 2018.