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Editorial: Gov't must take steps to fulfill legal obligation to hire disabled

The government has revealed that 80 percent of central administrative offices inflated the number of their disabled workforce by 3,460 people. This means that more than half of some 6,900 people listed as disabled last year were not actually so. This lie is shaking the foundations of the system requiring the employment of people with such conditions in the public and private sectors.

The guidelines set by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare say that only people with government-issued certificates or letters of diagnosis from designated medical doctors qualify as disabled workers. Companies and ministries are meant to confirm these documents before reporting their workers as disabled.

Ministers explained that they had different interpretations of the guidelines, or they did not realize the necessity to confirm those certificates. Such excuses simply do not sound convincing.

Local governments also padded the number of disabled workers according to press reports, and there were cases of officials knowingly counting workers without the necessary documents as disabled.

It is simply unnatural that 80 percent of central government ministries and agencies committed continuous padding of their disabled workforce based on a different interpretation or understanding of the rules. A detailed review of what actually happened and why is needed.

The actual ratio of disabled workers at national offices has since plummeted to just 1.19 percent, less than half of the legally required threshold of 2.5 percent. The figure is less than 1 percent at more than half of ministries and agencies. The National Tax Agency had more than 1,000 of its workers listed as disabled although they didn't qualify for the classification.

Many people with disabilities hope to work at public offices or private corporations but can't secure good jobs. Padding the number of disabled employees means that the same number of really disabled people remain unemployed.

The government says that a meeting of senior bureaucrats chaired by Health Minister Katsunobu Kato will discuss countermeasures in response to the padding scandal. Hiring 3,500 new disabled workers is no easy task. The prime minister's office should take the lead in implementing an action plan with concrete targets.

The Act for Eliminating Discrimination Against People with Disabilities stipulates that public bodies must make rational efforts to make it easier for the disabled to work. Many private companies, although they are not legally obliged, are making good efforts in this regard. National bodies should learn from the private sector and tackle the problem seriously.

The required ratio of the disabled workforce is set higher for central government offices because they are supposed to be a role model for private corporations. Continuing to betray the public or commit negligence over the hiring of the disabled is simply unacceptable.

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