TOKYO (REUTERS) - Several ministries in Japan may have inflated the number of disabled employees they have for more than four decades, media said on Friday (Aug 17), even as companies that miss quotas set by law face fines.
All government ministries and agencies have been asked to recheck their employment numbers as Japan reels from data-tampering scandals at companies ranging from Kobe Steel to Nissan Motor that prompted government inquiries.
Since 1976, both the public and private sectors have been told to employ a certain percentage of workers who are disabled, as part of efforts to provide them with employment and stamp out discrimination.
But several agencies may have overstated the number of their disabled employees since the quotas were first adopted and also included those with minor disabilities not officially certified as such, several media outlets said.
Actual employment of disabled who qualify for the quotas may have been less than half the 2.5 per cent reported last June by central government agencies, the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper said.
If true, that implies a shortfall from the requirement of 2.3 per cent. The private sector must meet a lower figure of 2 per cent, missed last year by a small margin. This April, the quotas were raised to 2.5 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively.
The labour and welfare ministry confirmed the request for a recheck of all 34 government ministries and agencies.
Labour ministry official Takanori Yoshida said the request was prompted by suspicion of "a misunderstanding" over the categories of candidates qualifying for the disabled quota, going by the queries the ministry received from some agencies.
The National Conference to Support the Life and Right of Disabled Persons activist group said the government owed the public a “thorough investigation and urgent fix” if the reports were true.
“This requirement has been in place for decades, and the fact that government agencies may have been fabricating the numbers is simply beyond belief,” said Hitoshi Shirasawa, a senior official at the activist group.
The ministry planned to announce its findings as soon as possible, Mr Yoshida added, but did not elaborate.