Japanese government under investigation for cheating on disability hiring quotas – The Diplomat
The government is being criticized for falsifying the number of disabled employees while calling on companies to hire more people with disabilities.
Several prefectural governments and central government ministries have admitted to inflating the number of disabled employees by not adhering to national health ministry guidelines, sparking further public outrage over the government’s handling of administrative tasks.
National Department of Health guidelines were created in 2005 to reduce discrimination and barriers to employment for people with disabilities. But 22 departments and agencies admitted to employing workers without asking to see official documents, instead determining an applicant’s disability based on a self-reported illness or a physical disability that had not been properly diagnosed. Meanwhile, workers who developed a disability during employment were included in the disability hiring quota without verifying the extent of the disability through official certification.
Under Japanese law, central and local governments are required to staff 2.5% of their overall workforce with people with disabilities. Companies must respect a quota of 2.2%. The greatest irony is that the higher disability employment quota for governments was intended to serve as a positive model for the private sector.
The opposition called the current practice “outrageous” and a prime example of government officials taking shortcuts without sufficient checks and balances. Critics also say it is an example of government departments being soft on each other while being tough on the private sector.
The Deputy Director of the Department of General Affairs explained that they had misinterpreted the national guidelines thinking that they could judge if a candidate had a disability without an official certificate in case of obvious disabilities such as prosthetic eyes, hearing aids, artificial dialysis and pacemakers. He said many government organizations are reluctant to verify documents due to the sensitive nature of investigating a potential candidate’s disability.
Overall, 33 national administrative agencies that had boasted of meeting the quota would now have hired less than 1% disabled workers. The Toyama Police Headquarters is just one of the government-affiliated agencies exposed for hiring below the legal quota for more than a decade.
While prefectural governments are tight-lipped in admitting to falsifying the figures, they have admitted making mistakes in their hiring calculations dating back to 1976 – when disabled hiring rates became mandatory.
The Department of General Affairs cited clumsiness with paperwork and an insufficient understanding of the laws as the reason behind negligent (not to say illegal) employment practices. But critics say the motive behind the falsification of employment rates at the central government level may lie in the difficulty of hiring suitable workers to cope with long working hours and unexpected deadlines and assignments for the sessions of the Diet.
The Department of Labor has earned a reputation for imposing stiff penalties on companies that fail to meet legal requirements when reporting annual employment percentages on June 1 each year. For companies with more than 100 workers, a fine of $451 per employee per month is imposed until the balance of 2.2% is corrected. Businesses are reeling from the scale of the double standard after the statutory employment quota for people with disabilities was increased by 0.2% in April.
Suspicions arose in June when the Department of Labor received repeated inquiries about how to calculate the employment rate for people with disabilities. The results of the survey of central government employment practices will be announced on August 28 in the lower house.