We are simply appalled by the utter callousness of the government ministries and agencies that did not live up to their duty to lead the way in the hiring of people with disabilities.

According to the results of a probe by the labor ministry, 27 of 33 central government institutions that are required to hire disabled people failed to follow national guidelines and padded their numbers by 3,460 employees.

As of June 1 last year, the total number of disabled people in the employ of those 33 government entities was said to be about 6,900. But more than half that number was bogus.

Back then, the labor ministry claimed that disabled people in the employ of those 33 entities accounted for 2.49 percent of the total work force, clearing the legally required quota of 2.3 percent.

But the actual percentage turned out to be a much lower 1.19 percent.

The labor ministry probe concluded that more than 80 percent of the number of disabled workers reported by the Foreign Ministry were inappropriately listed as such, as were more than 70 percent in the employ of the National Tax Agency.

These agencies neglected to check the disability certificates and doctors' records of the people they were hiring. The officials claim this was due to their lack of understanding or misunderstanding of the national guidelines, and therefore there was no intent to inflate the numbers. But how can we be sure?

The government intends to set up a third-party commission to examine the causes and how the "miscalculations" were made, and to formulate measures during October to prevent a recurrence. The government will also look into the same problem that has come to light at local administrative entities around the nation.

We demand a thorough probe.

The labor ministry explained that some of the 3,460 people who did not qualify as disabled actually have some disabilities.

On the other hand, there apparently were cases where some ministries and agencies included some of the people they hired among the disabled roster, without informing them of this fact.

The government must swiftly reveal the entire picture and explain in detail exactly what went on.

At some ministries and agencies, officials have apparently complained that the labor ministry's directives and guidelines were not easy to understand.

But that is a lame excuse, as private-sector entities have been following them faithfully without a hitch.

In the private sector, companies that fail to meet the hiring quota are fined. They are also subject to inspections to ensure their reported numbers are accurate.

It is certainly a problem that this system is not enforced in the public sector. The government must hasten to establish an effective system to ensure that everyone follows the rules.

One question we must raise is this: Were the central government ministries and agencies that were padding their numbers really aware of the importance of hiring people with disabilities?

We suspect that the root of the problem lay in their irresponsibility as well as the flawed thinking that all it matters was to make numbers fit the required quota.

If those ministries and agencies were conscientiously committed to providing places of employment where disabled individuals can fully perform according to their abilities, this whole sorry mess would not have occurred.

Every ministry and agency is reportedly set now to formulate plans that will enable them to clear the legally required hiring quota by the end of next year at the latest.

Obviously, it is time to rethink how best to improve the system of hiring disabled people--not only in terms of their numbers--but also in terms of the quality of their working environment.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 29