Japan’s First ‘Not’ Welfare EmploymentDevelopments to date and looking ahead

A ceremony was held on March 15, 2024, to mark the commencement of operations of the plant factory Challenged Life Social Firm Osaki in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. The facility is growing spinach, with daily operations carried out by persons with disabilities.

Group photo of participants
Group photo of the ceremony participants
Photographs of spinach seedlings a few days after sprouting and approximately one month later
Spinach seedlings a few days after sprouting (left) and approximately one month later (right)

During a tour of the facility, operations were proceeding smoothly with much activity.

Photo of staff preparing spinach for shipment
Staff preparing spinach for shipment

The NGO Challenged Life was previously an employer under the Japanese government’s social welfare program for employment of persons with disabilities (providing “type B” continued employment support for people who are not able to transition to regular employment), but now operates independently and no longer receives its previous social welfare insurance subsidies of roughly 42 million yen annually. Nevertheless, it pays its workers an average monthly wage of approximately 90,000 yen, which is significantly higher than the average for type B employment.

This creates a framework for persons with disabilities to become economically independent through regular employment, and Challenged Life hopes to roll out the program nationwide.

The Nippon Foundation’s employment support for persons with disabilities

The average wage for people with disabilities who work in social welfare facilities is less than 20,000 yen per month. Although there has been some increase in the number of disabled people working in regular employment, the total is still small. The Nippon Foundation began working to support the employment of people with disabilities in 2015, with the aim of making “Being able to work in my own community” a possibility for more people. Our activities fall primarily into two areas – building models to support efforts by new businesses with roots in local communities to hire disabled employees, and holding forums to consider issues related to “work” for people with disabilities. Through these activities, we have established a track record in increasing wages for workers with disabilities and in building frameworks for cooperation with local governments.

One of the models The Nippon Foundation has initiated involved the digitization of a portion of the holdings of Japan’s National Diet (Parliament) Library. The National Diet Library consigned the digitization project to The Nippon Foundation, and the Foundation subcontracted the operations to eight work facilities for people with disabilities across Japan. During fiscal 2022 the project digitized roughly 30,000 of the more than 12 million documents held by the library.

Composite of photos of workers engaged in digitization operations

This project is a good example of expanding the possibilities for employment and raising wages for people with disabilities. The Nippon Foundation will continue to support employment for disabled people going forward as we work toward the realization of a society in which everyone can actively participate.

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Global Communications Team
The Nippon Foundation

  • Email: info_global_communication@ps.nippon-foundation.or.jp