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  5. Employment Measures for Persons with Disabilities in Japan

 
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FOCUS December 2008 Volume 54

Employment Measures for Persons with Disabilities in Japan

Ryosuke Matsui

There are more than seven million persons with disabilities in Japan. This is almost 6 percent of the total population, a much lower rate than that of the USA and European Union countries due to the difference in the definition of disability. Those with disabilities in Japan consist of three and a half million persons with physical disabilities, more than five hundred thousand persons with intellectual disabilities, and more than three million persons with mental disabilities. The number of persons with physical disabilities living at home increased from three million in 1996 to three and a half million in 2006, an increase of 18.6 percent while those who are 65 years old and over increased from more than one and half million in 1996 to more than two million in 2006, an increase of 39.3 percent reflecting the rapid aging of the Japanese population.

23.4 percent of persons with intellectual disabilities are in institutions and 11.7% of persons with mental disabilities are in mental hospitals while only 2.4% of persons with physical disabilities are in institutions. Based on the Basic Disability Plan (2003 – 2012), the government has been trying to promote the transfer of those in institutions and mental hospitals to communities by encouraging local governments and voluntary agencies to increase the number of care homes as well as attendant and personal care services in the communities.

But both central and local governments cannot afford to drastically increase funding to secure enough care services and care homes for all persons with disabilities who are ready to move from institutions/hospitals into the communities.

The government is now reviewing the current national laws and regulations for persons with disabilities in order 鍍o promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities,・and prepare for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Employment of persons with disabilities

According to the most recent government statistics, out of a total number of 1.26 million persons with disabilities in Japan who are working, 240,000 are employed at sheltered or small-scale workshops (Table 1). And out of a total of around 1 million persons with physical and intellectual disabilities who are working, nearly half of them are employed at private enterprises or public sector while another half are self-employed or employed at family businesses (Table 2).

Table 1. Total number of persons with disabilities and employment rate of those who are working (2004) (in ten thousands)

  Persons with physical disability Persons with intellectual disability Persons with mental disability Total number of persons
Number of persons with disabilities 352 46 258 656
Number of those who are in working age and living at home 125 26 149 300
Number of those who are working 52 13 61 126
Number of those who are working at sheltered or small-scale workshops 3 7 14 24
Employment rate (%) 41.6 50.0 40.9 42.0

Table 2 shows that around 93 percent of the total employees with disabilities are employed by private enterprises while only 7 percent are employed by the public sector. And among those employed by private enterprises about three out of four are employed by private enterprises with fifty-six or more employees, under the employment quota system.

And among employees with disabilities about one out of three have severe disabilities. This means that the employment quota system plays a key role in the employment of persons with disabilities, including those with severe disabilities in Japan.

Table 2. Number of persons with physical or intellectual disabilities who are employed at private enterprises and public sector (2003) (in ten thousands)

  Number of fulltime employees with disabilities Number of fulltime employees with severe disabilities
A. Persons with disabilities
Who are employed at
Private enterprises with

5 or more employees
483 171
B. Persons with disabilities who are employed at enterprises with 56 or more employees 369 134
C. Persons with disabilities who are employed at public sector 38 11
Total (A+C) 521 182

Legal measures

Japan started enacting a series of laws regarding persons with disabilities after the Second World War (Table 3).

Table 3. Japanese laws on persons with disabilities

Year Laws
1949 Law for the Welfare of Persons with Physical Disabilities
1950 Mental Hygiene Law, amended in 1995 to become The Law Concerning Mental Health and the Welfare of Persons with Mental Disabilities
1961 Law for the Welfare of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities
1960 Law for the Employment Promotion of Persons with Physical Disabilities, amended in 1987 to become the Law Concerning the Employment Promotion, etc. for Persons with Disabilities (in preparation for the ratification of the ILO Convention on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment [Disabled Persons] of 1983)
1970 The Basic Law on the Measures for Persons with Intellectual and Physical Disabilities, amended in 1993 to become the Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities
1982 The Long-term Plan of the Measures for Persons with Disabilities, which corresponded to the UN Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992) and the World Program of Action concerning Disabled Persons (1982)
1993 The New Long-term Plan of the Measures for Persons with Disabilities, which corresponded to the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002)
1994 Law for the Promotion of the Construction of Special Buildings for Smooth Use by the Aged and the Disabled, revised in 2002
1995 Plan for Persons with Disabilities - Seven-Year Strategy toward Normalization (FY 1996 – FY 2002)
1997 Personal Care Insurance Law for the Aged
2000 Law for Promoting Easily Accessible Public Transportation Infrastructure for the Aged and the Disabled
2002 Basic Program for Persons with Disabilities (FY 2003 – FY 2012) and Five-Year Plan for Implementation of Priority Measures (FY 2003 – FY 2007), which corresponds to the 2nd Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (2003 - 2012)
2004 Latest revision of the Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities

The government aims to increase regular employment for persons with disabilities by leading them away from sheltered employment. There are two programs currently being implemented by the government: a) regular employment programs established under the Law Concerning the Employment Promotion, etc. for Persons with Disabilities, and the b) sheltered employment programs established under the welfare laws for persons with physical, intellectual and mental disabilities.

The central features of the government program for the regular employment of persons with disabilities are the a) employment quota system, b) levy and grant system for the employment of persons with disabilities, and c) vocational rehabilitation programs.

Employment quota system

The law governing the employment quota system penalizes employers who fail to meet the quota. Both private enterprises and public institutions (national and local governments) are required to comply with this employment quota system. Private enterprises that fail to meet the quota are required to submit a plan to employ persons with disabilities within a three-year period. Failing to submit the plan is penalized by a fine (200,000 Yen maximum), while neglecting to implement the plan is penalized by the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare who would expose this neglect to the mass media. Table 4 provides information on the situation of the employment quota system.

Table 4. Status of implementation of the employment quota system

Employer Employment quota for persons with disabilities
Private enterprises/General private enterprises (at least 56 regular employees) 1.8%
Government-affiliated organizations in certain categories (at least 48 regular employees) 2.1%
National and local public organizations 2.1%
Prefectural boards of education, etc. 2.0%

As of 1 June 2008, private enterprises covered by the employment quota system maintain 1.59 percent, 0.21 point below the required legal quota, employment rate. Comparing the rates among private enterprises, large size private enterprises with at least one thousand employees have been making more efforts in the employment of persons with disabilities in recent years than the small size private enterprises, which used to employ higher percentage of persons with disabilities. Large size enterprises establish special subsidiary companies for the employment of persons with disabilities. As of 1 June 2008, two hundred forty-two special subsidiary companies employ around 7,700 persons with disabilities with more than 40 percent being persons with intellectual disabilities. While the special subsidiary companies increased the number of employees with intellectual disabilities, this system avoids their employment in regular company operations and can be criticized as against the concept of inclusion or mainstreaming.

Levy and grant system

The levy and grant system is intended to improve the level/rate of employment of persons with disabilities by collecting levies from those enterprises which fail to satisfy the employment quota and use the collected levies to financially assist (in various forms of grants) those who employ persons with disabilities. This is meant to support the economic burden accompanying the employment of persons with disabilities that requires the remodeling of the work facilities/equipments, special employment management, assignment of workplace attendants, and skill development. It should be noted that an employer who pays the levy is not exempt from the obligation to comply with the employment quota system.

Employers who employ persons with physical or intellectual disabilities beyond the legally required quota are entitled to adjustment allowances or rewards taken from the collected levies.

Vocational rehabilitation programs

Vocational rehabilitation services are provided to persons with disabilities by the Public Employment Security Offices (PESOs), the vocational rehabilitation networks operated by Japan Organization for Employment of the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities (JEED) and various other relevant organizations. Table 5 provides information on the services being provided.

Table 5. Institutions providing vocational rehabilitation services

Public Employment Security Offices (PESOs), A PESO registers the application of persons with disabilities who seek employment, and provides these applicants with such services as vocational guidance and job referrals.
National Institute of Vocational NIVR conducts research and surveys on vocational rehabilitation and provides training for experts engaging in vocational rehabilitation as well as provides experimental vocational
Rehabilitation (NIVR) rehabilitation services especially for those with severe disabilities.
Prefectural centers These centers provide disabled persons with such services as vocational evaluation, vocational guidance, support services by job coaches, and work preparation training in close collaboration with PESOs and Employment and Living Support Centers for Persons with Disabilities, etc.  They also provide employers with vocational consultation and advice concerning employment management of persons with disabilities.
Private employers An employer can be commissioned by a prefectural governor to conduct on-the-job training for persons with disabilities in the types of work suitable for their capacities for a period of six months or less (one year or less in the case of persons with severe disabilities). Short-term on-the-job training (from less than two weeks to four weeks in the case of persons with severe disabilities) is also available.
General public vocational ability development centers Public vocational training is provided, under the Vocational Ability Development Promotion Law, for persons with disabilities to help them acquire skills necessary to facilitate their employment. For those who can receive vocational training together with non-disabled persons, it is conducted by general public vocational ability development centers.  And for those having difficulty receiving vocational training together with non-disabled persons, a total of nineteen Public Vocational Ability Development Centers for Persons with Disabilities have been established in the country so far. The training period varies from three months to three years depending on the training categories.
Other educational and training centers Vocational training services are also provided by eighteen other educational and training centers established by employers, educational foundations and social welfare foundations to develop and improve the vocational skills of persons with disabilities, by making the most of the grants which are available under the Levy and Grant System.

The recent trend of vocational rehabilitation programs in Japan is the move from center-based group training program to community-based individual training program. From 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008 over eight hundred job coaches provided vocational support services to around five thousand persons with intellectual or mental disabilities. This resulted in a success rate of over 80 percent of those who received such services keeping their jobs for six months or more.

Sheltered employment measures

There are two kinds of authorized work facilities, namely, the sheltered workshops established according to the Welfare Law for Persons with Physical Disabilities and Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, and the welfare factories established according to the Law concerning Health and Welfare of Persons with Mental Disabilities. In addition, there are community-based, small-scale workshops established by voluntary organizations, including organizations of parents who have children with disabilities.

Table 6. Information on institutions involved in sheltered employment measures

Sheltered Workshops and Welfare Factories Sheltered workshops provide persons with disabilities with training services to prepare them for their eventual placement in regular enterprises, as well as for the work opportunities available to those who have difficulty to be employed in the open labor market even after the training. Welfare factories are designated as employment entities where persons with disabilities are employed as workers whose employment conditions are similar to those in regular enterprises.
Community-based small-scale workshops These are informal projects that cannot subscribe to the minimum standards provided under the law. They therefore do not receive support from the national government. They depend on local government support and public donations.

As of October 2003, 2,425 sheltered workshops have been serving around 88,400 persons with disabilities. As of August 2004, 6,025 community-based small-scale workshops have been providing training and work opportunities to nearly 84,000 persons with disabilities.

With only about one percent of persons with disabilities finding employment in the open labor market annually, the sheltered workshops became employment places (instead of training facilities) for these people with an average wage in 2006 of about twelve thousand yen per month or less than one tenth of the minimum wage. The government intends to reorganize these facilities into time-limited transitional training programs with emphasis on placement in the open labor market, and non-competitive employment programs that cover those with and without employment contracts. Labor laws do not protect those without employment contracts, regardless of the period of work involved.

Conclusion

The current measures are laudable but still do not yet fully satisfy the needs of persons with disabilities who want and have the capacity to work. To facilitate higher employment rate, the following are recommended tasks that should be considered:

  1. Promotion of various forms of employment and work friendly to persons with disabilities;
  2. Development of the necessary support and environment to increase the opportunities for short-time work and work at home for persons whose capacities and types of disabilities suit these kinds of work;
  3. Provision of support for the utilization of information and communication technology (ITC) for those working at home, taking into consideration the needs of persons with disabilities who have difficulty in commuting to the workplace;
  4. Provision of support for persons with disabilities in creating or running new businesses. Likewise, provision of necessary measures (including facilitating financing start-up funding as well as marketing support) for persons with disabilities who are willing to create or run new businesses;
  5. Promotion of human resources development for persons with disabilities, including the development of systems for their admission into general human resource development programs, ensuring that the programs consider the trends in employment needs relating to the development of service economy and information society, and ensuring accessibility to facilities where the programs are administered;
  6. Promotion of commissioned training by various human resources development institutions, including private-sector institutions (enterprises and non-profit organizations, etc.) and other organizations; and
  7. Provision of labor protection and income supportfor those who are working on a long-term basis at non-competitive employment facilities so that they can work and live in their communities as equal members.

These recommendations can be incorporated in the programs of the local governments for all categories of persons with disabilities, particularly through their “Municipal Government Basic Program for Persons with Disabilities,” that were supposed to have been adopted from 2007.

They can also be considered in the revision of the Japanese laws and regulations to comply with the principle of “reasonable accommodation” and Article 27 of the CRPD. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has to prepare recommendations on how to adopt “reasonable accommodation,” defined as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Study of the American and British laws that already incorporate the “reasonable accommodation” principle, and consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities would be the important tasks of the MHLW in this regard.

Ryosuke Matsui is the Vice-President of the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities.

For further information please contact: Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, 1-22-1, Toyama, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0052 Japan; ph (81-3) 5273-0796; fax (81-3) 5273-0615; e-mail: matsuir@m3.dion.ne.jp; www.dinf.ne.jp.


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