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24 prefectures, cities counted unconfirmed disabled employees into their workforces

TOKYO -- At least 22 prefectures and two major cities counted some of their workers as disabled without confirming if those workers had government-issued disability certificates or medical diagnosis letters, an Aug. 22 tally by the Mainichi Shimbun showed.

Japanese law requires central and local governments to hire 2.5 percent or more people with disabilities in their workforces.

Reasons cited by the local governments for their failure to check if their employers met the legal definition of having disabilities included not sufficiently confirming health ministry guidelines on how to calculate the ratio of disabled workers, as well as a consideration for privacy. Some local governments replied that their action was "not intentional" and did not constitute "padding" of disabled worker numbers.

The Mainichi survey covered all 47 prefectures and 20 designated cities with a population of half a million or more and their boards of education.

The Tochigi Prefectural Board of Education north of Tokyo counted 39 employees as being disabled without confirming their disability certification in calculating the ratio of workers with disabilities for fiscal 2017.

The education board judged that workers were disabled based on their appearance, or when they had taken long-term leaves of absence or said they were ill. A board official in charge told a press conference that the body "did not understand the (health ministry) guidelines." The official added, "There were no malicious intentions and it was a case of simple carelessness."

The Ishikawa Prefectural Government in northwestern Japan, its board of education and the prefectural police also labeled some workers as disabled without checking their credentials when they computed their disabled employee ratios for fiscal 2017. The proportions of their disabled workers when subtracting people without official disability certificates were 1.41 percent for the prefecture, 1.45 percent for the prefectural board of education and 0.62 percent for the police. The figures reached 2.41 percent, 2.19 percent and 2.15 percent, respectively, with those uncertified workers counted in.

These figures were significantly below the legal requirements of 2.5 percent for prefectural governments and 2.4 percent for their boards of education. The requirement for the private sector is 2.2 percent.

Meanwhile in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan, the prefectural board of education accepted disability declarations from 100 people at face value without confirming if they actually held disability certificates. These workers said that they had acquired public certification after they were employed as nondisabled workers.

An official in charge said employees' privacy was taken into consideration in handling the issue. "We also let people mail in their declarations if they were opposed to the idea of submitting the papers via their superiors to give maximum consideration (to their privacy)," explained the official.

An official of the prefectural board of education in the southern prefecture of Nagasaki echoed this position, saying, "Hiring disabled people requires delicate handling, and we hesitate to tell them 'show us your certificate,'" the official said.

(Japanese original by Tatsuya Haga and Hiroyuki Oba, City News Department, and Tatsuki Noda, Utsunomiya Bureau)

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