Persons with disabilities in Japan are those who, because of physical, intellectual, mental (including developmental) disabilities or other impairments of physical or mental function are subject to considerable restriction in their vocational life, or who have great difficulty in leading a vocational life, over a long period of time. For their disability to be formally recognized and to collect related benefits, people with disabilities in Japan must be certified by the government. They may apply to their local government for this certification, which comes in the form of a booklet, or so-called ‘disability passbook’, that also allows them to obtain financial aid and reduced rates for public transport.
Person with a disability needs to re-certify each year.
2012 Act for Promotion of Employment of Persons with Disabilities
To be covered by the Promotion of Employment for Persons with Disabilities Act, a person must be “subject to considerable restriction in vocational life, or have great difficulty in leading a vocational life.” Therefore, those with a mild degree of disability and only minor restriction on their work are not considered to be covered by the Act.
Establishes quotas for the private and public sectors
2016 law bans discrimination against People with Disabilities
Requires reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in the workplace, and in some cases provides government allowances to cover accommodation expenses (if meeting or exceeding quota)
The 2018 amended Act adds the mentally disabled, including those with developmental disorders, to the required number of disabled people to be hired.
Signed and ratified Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014
Employer Legal Requirements
Meet an employment quota of 1.8%, rising to 2.2%
Provide facilities for employees with disabilities; government subsidies help pay for this.
Prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment, including conditions of recruitment, hiring and employment, continuance of employment, career advancement, and safe and healthy working conditions.
Provide “reasonable accommodations” to remove social barriers for employees with disabilities.
Persons with disabilities are required to recertify their disability every year to be counted for the quota system.
Under the quota system in Japan, large employers have the option to establish special “barrier-free” subsidiary companies (SSC), where people with disabilities work in group settings and count toward the parent company’s disability employment quota.
Basic Act on the Formation of an Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society
Voluntary JIS Web Content Accessibility Guidelines update (JIS X8341-3:2010) align with WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 regultions.
No enforcement law, but JIS guideline plays an important role in raising awareness while the governemnt does website testing to determine accessibility levels.
No common definition of reasonable accommodation.
No enforcement law, but JIS guideline is playing an important role in raising awareness
Tendency to not fully integrate individuals with disabilities into the workforce.
Traditional Japanese values of collectivism and conformity are increasingly sharing relevance in modern Japan with values of individualism and social diversity.
It is noteworthy that Japanese primary and secondary schooling is largely not inclusive and commonly segregates students with disabilities. Classroom segregation has a negative effect on both the disabled and non-disabled, leading to a broader society that traditionally “has not known how to talk to each other”
Business Practices/ExamplesAdditional content coming soon.
Placement in roles with little growth potential may be what leaves most Japanese employees with disabilities feeling disadvantaged. Only 15% of employees with disabilities in the Japan sample (vs. 27% in the U.S.) feel like they’re being promoted quickly, and 41% in the Japan sample (vs. 28% in the U.S.) regularly feel isolated at work.
Less than half of employees with disabilities in the Japan sample are proud to work for their employers; only 42% say they are proud to work for their companies (vs. 61% in the U.S.), while 62% in the Japan sample do not say they speak positively about the companies for which they work (vs. 41% in the U.S.).
Someone who has a disability is required to recertify his/her disability every year to be counted for the quota system. If one discloses and then works for a period of time, he/she is no longer considered disabled and the points may be lost.
Companies question whether to bring individuals with disabilities in as contractors or regular employees. It is very difficult to terminate employees in Japan. By taking the contract to hire approach, individuals with disabilities come in as contractors for a year to 16 months or so. Japan permits contractors to be counted as employees.
The pipeline of talent with disabilities is driven by government initiatives as opposed to for-profit or NGOs. The government hosts job fairs for individuals with disabilities and the presence of the government continues as individuals with disabilities are onboarded. The government provides training and job coaching during onboarding, which helps to bring individuals with disabilities into companies.
A company must establish itself and it’s brand in Japan as a crucial first step in engaging in disability-elated initiatives.
There is a growing understanding of disability as a component of diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility.
Employers may have to relax fluency requirements. After hiring the person with the disability, then work on language fluency.
Certification is in place for women-owned business enterprises (WeConnect).
Talent Sourcing Resources
In the U.S., employers work with various private nonprofits or for-profits to find candidates with disabilities. In Japan, the pipeline is driven by government initiatives. The government hosts job fairs for individuals with disabilities and the presence of the government continues as individuals with disabilities are onboarded. The government provides training and job coaching during onboarding, which helps to bring individuals with disabilities into companies.
Japan Organization for Employment of the Eldrely and Persons with Disabilities JEED has FAQs for employers, vocational employment center directories, and employer resources for reporting. It’s a comprehensive resource for understanding the employment procedures.
Disability Equality Training Forum (DET) is a Japan-based network of disability inclusion trainers based throughout Asia. DET facilitators are trained by the network and are predominantly people with disabilities. The Japanese government helped establish the network through the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Abilities Association is a training enterprise founded and staffed by people with disabilities. They work closely with DPI-Japan. The two organizations, joined with Kirin Beer as a model, could make an excellent training partnership for other companies.
Disabled Peoples International Japan (DPI-Japan) is the leading cross-disability, umbrella association in Japan. They operate an Employment Committee with an advocacy focus and have conducted U.S. visits to observe ADA implementation. They have partnered with Kirin Beer, who operates an inclusive workplace in Japan.
Mirairo provides corporate training, accessibility and universal design consultation, and interpreter services; a related project of theirs, B-Maps, supports corporate social responsibility activities and identification of barriers.
Japan Universal Manners Association provides customer service training in accessibility & inclusion.
The Japan Independent Living Network (JIL) of 125 centers for independent living in local communities across Japan is a connection to the grassroots. Closely aligned with the National Council for Independent Living in the United States.
The Nippon Foundation is a leading Japanese philanthropy heavily invested in disability employment strategies through grants & partnerships. It also supports disability rights groups across Asia. Its executives have attended the Harkin Summit as well as the UN Conference of States Parties to the CRPD.
Mizuki Hsu is an American-educated disability advocate now employed in a major American tech firm’s Tokyo office, where she focuses on inclusion and access. Her streaming video about seeking employment provides a window on the typical experience for a young professional with disabilities:
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Boeltzig-Brown, H. (2013). Common Trends and Issues in Employment and Vocational Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities in the United States and Japan.
Brightman, James. (2005). Asian Culture Brief: Japan. Manoa, Hawaii: National Technical Assistance Center.
Iwatani, N. e. (2011). Japan’s Globalization Imperative. McKinsey Quarterly.
Japan-UN. (2016). Retrieved from Japan Official State Report to United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2016.
Kawano, A. (2016). Employment Policy for People with Disability (PWD) in Japan: Study of the Special Subsidiary Company (SSC).
Matsui, R. (2011). Employment opportunities of persons with disabilitiesand the special subsidiary company scheme in Japan.
Nagano, H. (2015). Recent Trends and Issues in Employment Policy on Persons with Disabilities. Japan Labour Review.