“Inclusive Society for All”: East Asia Disability Studies Forum 2019
East Asia Disability Studies Forum has been held annually since 2010. The first forum was held in Seoul, Korea, and this year the tenth forum was held in Wuhan, China on October 12-13. Researchers from China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan discussed inclusive society in six areas: rule of law, education, employment, mental and intellectual disabilities, gender and sexuality, and aging with disabilities.
Photo 1: East Asia Disability Studies Forum 2019
I have been conducting research on employment of persons with mental disabilities in Japan. Persons with mental disabilities are craftily excluded from the labor market and many of them are forced to work at welfare-based sheltered workshops to earn low wages. In this forum, we discussed employment of persons with disabilities from the viewpoint of inclusive society.
In Japan, the statutory employment rate of persons with disabilities was raised to 2.2% in the private sector and 2.5% in the public sector in April 2018. However, in August 2018, it was found that about 80% of the national government agencies counted 3,460 persons as disabled employees without the confirmation of disability certificate and other relevant documents, which reduced the actual employment rate from 2.49% to 1.19%.
I found it fruitful to share and discuss information regarding the employment rate and employment policies of persons with disabilities in China, Korea, and Taiwan.
Firstly, in China, it is stipulated that the statutory employment rate of persons with disabilities shall be 1.5% or more. However, according to the participants, government officials say that if persons with disabilities work there, they lose their prestige. A job advertisement of a bank, which was introduced as an example in the presentation, states that applicants must have civil litigation ability and healthy body. When persons with disabilities have a job interview, some employers ask them if persons with disabilities can do this work even when they cannot make decisions. It seems that China is requested to revise this point under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Currently, persons with disabilities in China work at sheltered workshops*1. However, participants of the forum stated that if persons with disabilities depend on care which is provided there, their function decreases, and insisted that this kind of “protected” workshop should be eliminated if we take the recovery of persons with disabilities into consideration.
Photo 2: A presenter introduces sheltered workshops in China
Secondly, in Korea, it is stipulated that the statutory employment rate of persons with disabilities shall be 3.1 % or more in the private sector and 3.4% or more in the public sector. However, in fact, many employers prefer to pay a penalty rather than to employ persons with disabilities. In particular, there exists discrimination against persons with autism, developmental disabilities, or mental disabilities. It is stipulated that income of persons with disabilities shall be 80% or more of minimum wage. Average income of persons with disabilities at workshops for less capable workers is 820,000 won per month, while income at workshops for little capable workers is 220,000 won per month. What this means is that the rights of workers for persons with disabilities including wages is not protected.
Lastly, in Taiwan, it is stipulated that the statutory employment rate of persons with disabilities at offices whose total number of employees is 34 or more shall be 3% in the public sector, while that of persons with disabilities at offices whose total number of employees is 67 or more shall be 1% in the private sector. Moreover, if income of persons with disabilities is lower than minimum wage, they are not counted as persons with disabilities statistically. According to the statistics published in May 2019, the actual number of employment of persons with disabilities was 83,630, which exceeded the target number of 58,691. At the roundtable discussion which was held on the last day of the forum, Prof. Chang Heng-Hao of the Department of Sociology at Taipei University stated that he prefers the term “social prosperity” to ”social inclusion,” which impressed me.
In the keynote lecture by Mr. Tang Jun of the Center for Public Policy Research at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences entitled “Social Inclusion, Social Exclusion and Protection of Persons with Disabilities,” he pointed out that there are two kinds of exclusion; one is what appears on surface, and the other is what is hidden. He said that discrimination and prejudice people have in their mind are also embedded in governmental policies.
Under the Services and Supports for Persons with Disabilities Act in Japan, subsidies which are provided for welfare employment support workshops can be used only for the salary of staff who work there, and cannot be used to supplement the wage of persons with disabilities. This results in income gap between them. Moreover, it is said that in general enterprises annual income of persons with disabilities is less than half of the average annual income of people in general, which is 4.32 million yen. The government admits that minimum wage can be reduced for persons with significantly low labor ability due to their mental or physical disabilities. This shows that the government that make policies and implement the system have deep rooted sense of discrimination against persons with disabilities.
This forum provided me with the opportunity to consider how we can create fields where staff and persons with disabilities can work together on economically and psychologically equal footings, not just the inclusion of persons with disabilities in local communities. From now on, I need to explore this in my own research field.
For details of the East Asia Disability Studies Forum 2019, please see reports regarding the East Asia Disability Studies Forum 2019 in Wuhan.
KOMAZAWA Mayumi（Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Ritsumeikan University/JSPS Research Fellowship for Young Scientists）
*1 Sheltered workshops are facilities in which persons with disabilities, who have difficulties working for enterprises, can have job training. Subsidies are provided for persons with disabilities as wages.