Diversity Discussion Part.2

Itochu Enex works toward the realization of an inclusive society where everyone, with or without disabilities, is able to participate according to their capabilities.Along with increasing job opportunities for people with disabilities and working to have a workforce, we continue to pave the way for the creation of an environment where people with disabilities are able to exert their strengths and achieve greater things. The following discussion between Shinri Hasegawa, a Director of Startline Co., Ltd., and Motoyo Yamane, an Itochu Enex outside director is on the theme of the success of diverse personnel.

Responsibility through work and the importance of financial independence

[Yamane] Our seven employees at IBUKI TODA FARM 2 are hired under regular employment. What is the major difference between welfare employment and regular employment?

[Hasegawa] I think there are three big differences: the responsibility generated by the job, the shift from being a tax user to a taxpayer, and the sense of security their parents feel."Having a job" instead of "just carrying out tasks" creates a sense of responsibility and self-esteem.In particular, monthly wages under welfare employment are about 15,000 yen, but people under regular employment will be paid by a salary, which I think leads to their independence.

[Yamane] That's a big difference. I think the important point is that people with disabilities can have a sense of self-respect by having a job and being financially independent. When we aim to create a society where everyone can live with "pride as a human being," I think it is a social responsibility for companies to provide such work opportunities for people with disabilities.

Communication for understanding each other is a key

[Yamane] Companies are positively working to employ people with disabilities due to a rise in the statutory employment rate of people with disabilities in Japan and other several factors, but it seems one of the major drives is to comply with the law.It is thought that many companies employ people with disabilities out of a percieved obligation.

[Hasegawa]Admittedly, this cannot be denied.It would be a lie if it were said that employing people with disabilities brings no burdens.In some cases, a company may actually hire people with disabilities, and then encounter problems and have difficulty resolving them, causing them to be reluctant to hire new people.However, when facing difficulties, we need to sit down and talk with the person.It may require some time, but I believe communication to ensure that we know the person better and understand each other is key.

[Yamane] Even setting aside the matter of disabilities, it is vital to communicate to understand each other.It has made me realize once again the importance of providing inclusive education, and opportunities for people with and without disabilities to receive education together.

[Hasegawa] For example, people who use wheelchairs are likely to be seen as only having physical difficulties, but in some cases they also develop mental disorders, so it is necessary to pay attention to mental aspects as well.That is why all wheelchair users cannot be all treated in the same way.Like all people, there are things that cannot be judged only by appearance and all people should not be treated in the same way. Learning about the individual is essential.

[Yamane] Nowadays, there are very few opportunities to come into contact with people with disabilities in the corporate world. It is easy to have discrimination and prejudice against strangers. When I first saw a person with a prosthetic hand eating his lunch with chopsticks, I was too nervous to speak to him. But as I got used to seeing them, I started to ask them, "Your prosthetic hand is really well made, how does it work? How does it work?" or "What kind of things do you have trouble doing with your prosthetic hand? But as you get used to seeing them, you can ask them frankly, "Your prosthetic hand is very well made. Then the other person will be able to speak honestly and without hesitation, saying, "I want you to do this for me or that for me. It is important to become familiar with them. It's important to get used to seeing them, and to make an effort to understand them through conscious contact. This is not only for people with disabilities, but also for people who seem a little difficult to understand, and I believe that this kind of communication effort will lead to the acceptance of diversity.

Helping all individuals live comfortably through mutual recognition

[Yamane] To be honest, I regret that we allocate our employees with disabilities to a special workplace.It is better to create an environment which allows all employees to work together in the same office building.

[Hasegawa] It sounds good, but I think it is okay to use different methods,because some people with disabilities find it stressful to be in the same place with a large and unspecified number of people.Some people feel a sense of peace in environments with a limited number of the same staff, where they can consult people at any time.While understanding that some wish to work together with others in the same place and others prefer to work separately from others, I do not think it is easy to provide environments that meet all of these wishes within a company.In this case, I suggest that companies collaborate with outside partners like us to create options.

I've come to believe that with the help of Mr. Hasegawa and his team, who have professional knowledge and skills, the employees with disabilities are happy because they can maintain their mental stability. However, in order to have a sense of unity, I would like to increase opportunities for them to come to the head office from time to time and interact with us. We do not employ people with disabilities out of obligation or warmth. As we aim to create a society where everyone can live happily, we are proud to see our colleagues with disabilities working with vigor as a symbol of diversity.

Profile of Mr. Hasegawa

After studying abroad in Canada, Mr. Hasegawa began working in a foreign capital media company. He engaged in broadcast advertising sales, and moved on to work at a recruitment service agency.
After serving as corporate planning manager, new business promotion manager, PR and IR special mission senior officer, and in other positions, he was responsible for establishing a special subsidiary company to promote the employment of people with disabilities and was appointed to an executive position.
In 2009, he took part in the establishment of Startline Co., Ltd. and currently serves as board member.