After ministries and agencies had admitted padding their numbers of disabled employees, large numbers of disabled applicants turned up at government employment exams on Feb. 3 hoping to help rectify the shortfall.

The number of disabled job seekers seeking government jobs outnumbered the openings by a 13 to 1 margin at unified employment exams for the disabled.

A total of 8,712 disabled applicants took the examination, which was held in 22 venues of nine prefectures, including Tokyo. The number of jobs available was 676.

On Feb. 3, applicants sat for the exam’s first round, which consisted of a paper test and essay portion. Test-takers who passed the first round will return for the second round, which will be an interview.

The successful applicants will be announced within this fiscal year, which ends in March 2019.

It was discovered about six months ago that the government’s ministries and agencies were padding their employment rates of disabled workers to meet legally required quotas.

To correct the problem, the government worked out a plan to employ about 4,000 disabled people by the end of 2019.

Applicants for the Feb. 3 exams were aged from 17 to 59 as of Jan. 1. Of the 8,712 applicants, 57 percent were those with mental disabilities, followed by 40 percent with physical disabilities and 3 percent with intellectual disabilities.

To accommodate test-takers, the National Personnel Authority allowed people with supersensitive hearing disorders to use earplugs. People with a disabled arm were also allowed to use a tool to assist the impaired limb.

The personnel authorities also extended the testing time for the visually impaired because they had to read the questions in Braille.

The results of the first-round test will be announced on Feb. 22. Then, explanation meetings will be held in various parts of the country. After that, applicants who passed the first-round test will be interviewed at ministries and agencies they hope to join.

To prevent a recurrence of the employment rate padding scandal, the government plans to submit revisions to the Law for Promotion of Employment of Persons with Disabilities to the current Diet session.

The revisions will clearly define disabled workers who can be counted in the employment rate. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will also require ministries and agencies and local governments to report on their employment of disabled people.

A man in his 30s said after taking the first-round test in a venue in Tokyo, “I never thought that the road to becoming a public servant would widen in such a manner.”

The man, who lives in the Kanto region, hoped to become a central government employee after graduating from a university graduate program. However, he failed in the interview process many times.

He gave up his dream due to the age limit and landed a job in a private company. After that, he found that he was suffering from developmental disorders.

He can’t talk to people while looking directly into their eyes. He also does not notice mistakes in his work. Now, he has quit his former job and is attending a facility for disabled people to learn work skills.

He learned that disabled people who are older than 30 can take the latest exams.

“I want to land a stable job to keep in contact with society,” he said.

However, a 46-year-old male company employee who is visually impaired said after taking the first-round test in a venue in Tokyo, “As the government suddenly plans to hire many disabled people, it’s doubtful that the ministries and agencies have sufficient systems to deal with them.”

The man, who lives in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, added that he is also considering taking a job in a private company that has a sufficient system to accept disabled people.

Meanwhile, agencies that have been engaged in support activities for disabled people also have some concerns.

“What jobs are offered (to disabled people) or whether (the ministries and agencies) pay sufficient considerations to their disabilities are unclear,” said Shuichi Kubo, secretary-general of Social Heartful Union (Tokyo), a labor union for the disabled.

“It can’t be denied that the government will employ disabled people just to meet the employment rate criteria,” he added.

Kentaro Morita, 39, a member of General Partners, a job placement agency for the disabled, also said, “I want the ministries and agencies to open their doors to disabled people whose employment opportunities in the private sector are limited.”

As specific examples, he cited mentally disabled people who can work only limited hours or people with heavy physical disabilities who are hoping to work from home.

“If the ministries and agencies employ them as a role model, it will become a good incentive for private companies to follow suit,” he said.

(This article was written by Junichi Bekku, Mika Kuniyoshi and Satoru Murata.)