Photo/IllutrationThe Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare building

The labor ministry, which is charged with overseeing the elimination of bullying and harassment at workplaces in Japan, turns out to be rife with such cases itself.

A survey conducted by a youth team set up in April in the ministry found that nearly half the respondents among staff members were subject to sexual or power harassment by superiors.

The reform team, comprising 38 members mainly in their 20s and 30s, submitted the survey results along with a petition to labor minister Takumi Nemoto on Aug. 26. It covered 3,800 staff members, with valid responses provided by 1,202.

Forty-six percent of the respondents said, "I've been exposed to power or sexual harassment." Of these, 54 percent said, "But I did not tell anyone, as I was worried it might negatively affect my job assignment," or "It is difficult to consult the person in charge of it in my section."

Thirty-seven percent of the respondents said personnel assignments are "not conducted appropriately," with 38 percent of them saying, "Executives and staff members who engage in sexual or power harassment continue to be promoted."

Meanwhile, 65 percent said, "My workload is too heavy." Asked why, 67 percent answered, "There's not enough staff."

The written section of the survey included some unsettling comments, such as, "After joining the ministry, I entered the graveyard of my life," and "I think about quitting every day."

Citing the flawed survey data scandal that came to light in late 2018, in which it was found that the ministry had been using an improper survey method for its key Monthly Labor Survey since 2004, the reform team pointed out that, "More human resources and time should be given to developing policies instead of troubleshooting scandals."

The petition also indicated that a "desperate shortage of human resources" can cause more errors and scandals, calling for additional staff and improved personnel systems.