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27 central gov't bodies counted 3,460 officials as disabled staff without confirmation

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga bows as he apologizes for central government organizations' padding of the numbers of their disabled officials during a news conference at the prime minister's office on Aug. 28, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Twenty-seven of the national government's 33 bodies had counted 3,460 officials as disabled employees without confirming their disability certificates and other relevant documents as of June last year, according to a labor ministry probe.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry made the discovery through an investigation into a scandal in which government organizations padded the number of their disabled officials for decades in an apparent bid to make it look as if they met the requirement that disabled employees must constitute at least 2.3 percent or more of the total workforce at government bodies. The required rate was raised to 2.5 percent this past April.

The ministry has concluded that 3,460, or roughly half of approximately 6,900 officials whom these government organizations claimed to be disabled, cannot be recognized as such under ministry guidelines. As a result, the average rate of employment of disabled people at national government ministries and agencies declined from 2.49 percent to 1.19 percent.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato apologized over the matter at a news conference after a regular Cabinet meeting on Aug. 28.

"We (administrative bodies) are in a position to proactively employ people with disabilities to set good examples for private businesses. We deeply apologize for a situation like this," Kato said.

With regard to the discovery that the labor ministry also wrongly counted a few officials as disabled employees, Kato said, "We must reflect on the fact that mishandling of a procedure occurred at the ministry responsible for the policy of promoting the employment of disabled people."

The central government will draw up measures to prevent a recurrence and promote the employment of disabled people by the end of October.

Based on the padded figures, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry had earlier recognized that 32 out of the 33 government organizations, excluding the Personal Information Protection Commission, met the 2.3 percent requirement. However, it has turned out that only six organizations, including the Financial Services Agency and the National Police Agency, met the requirement.

The ratio at 17 national government organizations declined below 1 percent after those falsely counted as disabled officials were excluded from the number of disabled employees.

The National Tax Agency inflated the number of disabled officials by over 1,000. After these officials were excluded from the figure, the rate of disabled workers at the agency declined from 2.47 percent to 0.67 percent.

The rates at the Justice Ministry and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry fell from 2.44 percent to 0.8 percent and from 2.38 percent to 0.7 percent, respectively.

Under the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry guidelines, officials with disability certificates or medical certificates proving that they have disabilities can be recognized as disabled employees at government organizations.

However, it has been a customary practice at many government organizations, including the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, to count officials with milder disabilities, for which disability certificates cannot be issued, as disabled employees.

Government officials attribute the problem partly to their lack of sufficient knowledge of the system, as an individual linked to the Japan Meteorological Agency says.

Moreover, officials of some government bodies complain that the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has failed to sufficiently notify other ministries and agencies of the system.

Critics have also pointed out the problem has been overlooked partly due to a lack of a system under which an organization regularly examines whether government bodies meet the requirement for the employment of disabled people.

There is a system under which an independent administrative institution checks whether private companies meet a similar requirement every three years.

The Act on Employment Promotion etc. of Persons with Disabilities stipulates that at least certain percentages of workers at the central and local governments as well as private companies must be disabled people.

Under the law, the ratios were raised by 0.2 points to 2.5 percent for national and local governments and to 2.2 percent at private companies. Private companies that fail to achieve the target are slapped with a fine of 40,000 or 50,000 yen per person short of the goal per month. However, the national and local governments are not fined for failing to achieve the goal.

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