NRI Papers
No. 215 June 1, 2017
  Technological Innovations and Work Style Reforms Open Up New Possibilities for Empowering Persons with Disabilities  
Keisuke MIZUNOURA and Rieko ITO

Expanding job opportunities for persons with disabilities and providing support for them to fully demonstrate their abilities/skills could serve as one effective solution to the labor shortages that Japanese companies face. These efforts are also vital to dealing with issues such as the rise in the statutory employment quota for persons with disabilities, the expected increase in the number of employees with mental disorders and the issue of aging among physically challenged workers.

Good examples of new possibilities opened up by technological innovations include commuting and work performance support made possible through advances in information technology, increased use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the spreading popularity of smartphones. While teleworking that facilitates cooperation with welfare organizations and medical institutions is a sensible option, challenges in terms of education, attendance management and communication must be addressed.

Work style reforms could be realized by changing the work content. While most workers with disabilities are currently engaged in jobs such as office assistance and cleaning, there is little chance of the number of such jobs rising, and these jobs are unlikely to generate increased added value. To enable workers with disabilities to have more job opportunities that contribute to corporate value, the number of jobs that satisfy both requirements - meeting a company's needs and making the most of each individual's capabilities and characteristics - should be increased. To this end, collaboration between companies (employers) and nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and other support organizations is useful.

Another way of reforming work styles is changing the roles assumed by workers with disabilities. One idea is to assign the role of leader to them with due consideration given to each person's aptitude. Before anything else, role models should be first created so that people's awareness of the possibility for change in the future could be raised.

To change the work style of workers with disabilities, skill development must be promoted. The following cases provide a good reference for this purpose: social skills training provided by a Japanese subsidiary of Sanofi, a leading French pharmaceutical company, and DO-IT (Diversity, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology) Japan, a leadership development program offered by the University of Tokyo.

Contents
I Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities as an Important Factor to Overcoming Labor Shortages
II Cases of Technology-based Support for Empowerment
III Change in Jobs and Roles Taken On by Workers with Disabilities
IV Moving toward a Society with Increased Mutual Understanding between Employees with and Employees without Disabilities

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