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Prefectural gov'ts, education board also inflated number of employees with disabilities

The Shizuoka, Shimane and Nagasaki prefectural governments plus the Saitama Prefectural Board of Education all revealed on Aug. 21 that they had padded the ratio of employees with disabilities at their offices.

The announcements came in the wake of similar revelations at seven central government bodies including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Specifically, the prefectures and the Saitama education board added people without disability certificates or medical diagnosis letters to the total number of disabled staff and teachers in their employ to meet the legally mandated ratio. Nagasaki in southern Japan had apparently been using erroneous calculation methods for this ratio for more than 20 years. It has been confirmed that similar calculation methods were also used in the northern prefecture of Yamagata and the western prefecture of Ehime, raising the possibility the falsified ratio problem is even larger than has already been revealed.

The Act on Employment Promotion etc. of Persons with Disabilities stipulates that disabled employees must constitute 2.5 percent or more of the total workforce at prefectural governments, and 2.4 percent at prefectural boards of education.

When Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan calculated its ratio of employees with disabilities in the current fiscal year, it failed to follow Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare guidelines on confirming physical disability certificates, and submitted a report to the ministry stating it had 36 employees with disabilities. The prefectural education board reported 92 such employees using the same practice. If those employees whose disability certificates were not confirmed are subtracted from the totals, the ratio of workers with disabilities drops from 2.61 percent to 1.9 percent for the prefectural government, and from 2.47 percent to 1.79 percent for the prefectural education board.

Shizuoka Prefecture pointed out that the requirement to check disability certificates did not appear in labor ministry notifications until fiscal 2017. "We failed to conduct sufficient checks, but this was not a case of intentionally padding the numbers," a prefectural official said.

Nagasaki Prefecture also hired 18 people as employees with disabilities without checking if they had a certificate or medical diagnosis letter. The prefecture reported to the labor ministry that 2.51 percent of its staff had a disability, but this falls to 2.06 percent if those without certificates are subtracted. This type of practice has apparently been going on for more than 20 years. The prefecture also revealed that, though its reports to the labor ministry showed it has been meeting the 2.5 percent target ratio every year since 2010, it has in fact fallen short in each of those years.

Shimane Prefecture in western Japan also reported 122 employees with disabilities without checking if the workers had disability certificates. After recalculating the numbers, the prefecture found that only 1.11 percent of the governor's office staff had a confirmed disability, down from the 2.52 percent previously claimed. The ratio at the prefectural education board fell from 2.51 percent to 0.93 percent.

The Saitama Prefectural Board of Education north of Tokyo, meanwhile, did check teachers' disability certificates at the time of hiring, but did not confirm those of teachers who became disabled mid-career. The education board stated that it had confirmed the certificates of only 122 of the 492 staff it listed as disabled in its June 1 report to the labor ministry. The board's disabled employee ratio already stood at a below-target 2.21 percent in June, before the padding practices emerged. The Saitama prefectural government itself has apparently always followed labor ministry guidelines on calculating the ratio.

(Japanese original by Nobuyuki Shimada, Shizuoka Bureau, Sayo Kato, Nagasaki Bureau, Yuki Nakagawa, Saitama Bureau, and Manami Negishi, Matsue Bureau)

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