Japanese bureaucracy receives a lot of criticism, most of it appropriate, but the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s imposition of regulations obliging private companies, as well as central and local governments, to employ a certain percentage of intellectually or physically disabled people is an entirely positive change. The regulations mean a big improvement for a large number of disabled people.
From April the requirement for employing disabled people will be raised from the current 1.8 percent to 2 percent for private companies and from 2.1 percent to 2.3 percent for central and local governments. Though these percentages are low, the ministry is perhaps right to introduce such changes at an incremental pace. Many companies are resistant to hiring disabled people and the system for training workers needs to be further developed.
However, the successes in employing disabled people since 2006 also indicate that a faster pace is possible. According to the ministry, the number of intellectually disabled people who successfully found jobs rose from 9.9 percent in fiscal 2006 to 21.6 percent in fiscal 2011. Many of those people found work through the Hello Work public employment security offices. That tremendous progress should continue.
The ministry, together with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, has also established special schools for disabled people that provide occupational training. Training is provided in some of the basics of the workplace and on specific skill sets. Supervised internships help workers learn more practically. Many of the graduates have found work at nursing care facilities, as well as a variety of other jobs. The central government should continue to support these schools and help expand their services.
Some disabled people have limitations that make it hard to do certain types of jobs, but then, so do some non-disabled people. Many disabled people are ready and willing to work if given the right chance. The ministry’s requirements mean that workplaces will need to find ways for them to work better. That is a very reasonable and important undertaking.
It is also an undertaking that might never happen unless private companies are encouraged, or forced, to do so. The ministry’s regulations stipulate it can publish the names of companies that refuse to hire disabled people. It should do so.
The prejudice against disabled people in workplaces, or in public, is long out of date. In the past, private companies might have been ashamed to have employees who seemed different from some rigid standard of normalcy, but nowadays all employers should be proud of having a diverse workforce.