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Satoshi Fujiwara Employee Relations & Human Resources Department Hitachi, Ltd.
The legal quota for private sector companies in Japan for the employment of persons with disabilities is 1.8% of the workforce.* But for regular companies, the average is actually only 1.46% (according to Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, June 2004). One of the major obstacles to promoting their employment is the difficulty in matching the person with the work.
In June 2003, at Hitachi, Ltd., the employment ratio of challenged persons fell to 1.66%, below the quota. Though this is due to personnel movement by corporate restructuring, including the selling-off of some business units, we could not ignore the fact. As a result of redesigning our hiring plan and speeding up the process, we soon made 63 new hires and achieved the rate in six months. However, this alone is not our goal. Considering that employment for the challenged is a topic of concern in today's Japan, we need to think what we should do to make Hitachi an attractive and easy place to work for them. About 40,000 employees work for Hitachi, Ltd., and about 340,000 for the Group companies. This means that our society may change, if Hitachi changes.
To begin with, we sought out opportunities to meet challenged persons by going for interviewing sessions organized by public employment security offices, and by getting referrals from regular and vocational schools for the challenged. Second, we dealt with the "soft" institutional or human aspects that are more difficult than the "hard" physical issues like ensuring barrier-free access to the workplace. We set up trainings to address their concerns and gave career advice to the newly-hired challenged employees. At the same time, we started trainings for their managers. Third, we carried out an internship to take the initiative and show the leadership, which successfully led to hiring a blind but talented student. This effort has just begun. But the staff in her department has been inspired by her enthusiasm and ability. "When the world changes, we want it to be Hitachi that changes." We are determined to put this challenge into practice when it comes to employment for challenged persons.
Aya Onoyama Employee Relations & Human Resources Department Hitachi, Ltd.
Even if there are arrangements for hiring persons with disabilities, generally they are only for people with minor disabilities.
I think the hurdles are higher for people with more severe disabilities like me. - I'm totally blind. But Hitachi accepted me enthusiastically. To be honest, I do have some anxieties. And it's not just me. I think the people around me have some concerns too. But if we make an effort to communicate straight with each other, I think we can resolve problems that arise.
Right now, most of my work involves administrative tasks that I can do using a computer with speech recognition software installed. And the communication with others has become smoother. For example, since I can't see, when someone points and says "that over there" and "this here" it means nothing to me. So we've started confirming what we mean, when necessary.
But in any company, at some point you have to deal with a lot of paper, and that's difficult for me. Converting things to Braille involves costs, so I would like to take the initiative and think about ways to overcome this problem. My objective is to make use of the fact that I have a disability and offer some ideas for product development or for society. I want to do my best.
(Published in July 2005)