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Designing and Constructing a Job-Matching Service on the Internet for People with Disabilities

Shoko MIYAGAWA <miyagawa@sfc.wide.ad.jp>
Hidehiro OHASHI <hohashi@sfc.keio.ac.jp>
Ikuyo KANEKO <kaneko@vcom.or.jp>
Keio University


In Japan, people with disabilities face a serious problem when they want to be employed. In this paper, we explore the reasons behind this problem from the viewpoint of information distribution. We then discuss an effort to build up a network community that promotes job matching for people with disabilities. In particular, we discuss the information service on the Internet called "Job-Matching Square," which we have constructed and have made available for the general public. We also describe the findings through our experience of running the service, and finally we present the need for a mutual accreditation network, which is essential for constructing and providing a credible matching service on the Internet.


1. Current status of employment for people with disabilities

1.1 Employment of people with disabilities in Japan

The number of people with physical handicaps in Japan is about 3,200,000 and growing, while at the same time there are 413,000 mentally handicapped people. Of these, roughly 860,000 of the physically handicapped and 165,000 of the mentally handicapped are between the ages of 20 and 60. The number of regularly employed people with physical handicaps and mental handicaps is about 227,000 and 71,000 respectively. However, although the number of seriously handicapped people (the first and the second degrees of disability) who can hardly commute to the office has been growing, according to the official statistics the number of telecommuting workers with disabilities (i.e., disabled people who stay home and use telecommunication networks to perform their work) is a mere 89 in all of Japan. In Japan, it is required by law that companies and associations that regularly employ more than 63 people have a duty to employ people with disabilities in a certain percentage. In the case of a private company, the percentage is 1.8% of the entire employee population, while the percentaage for corporations having special status (such as affiliated organizations of government ministries) is 2.1%. However, the achievement percent of this duty remains less than 50%. There are many factors to this problem, which include many areas such as lack of education, pension, regional support, transportation, and information technology. Among these factors, we will focus on the problem of inadequacy of information distribution.

1.2 Public service

As a public service, between 10 and 20 government employment placement agencies, which intermediate job vacancy information and job-seeking information are set up in each of 49 local governments of Japan. On the other hand, in the private sector, because the intermediary function of employment is a governmentally authorized matter, a new entry into the labor market has been virtually restricted. This has prevented the smooth distribution of employment information. As deregulation proceeds, some viable labor enterprises have started. Some of them are provided by private corporations and others by incorporated nonprofit organizations (NPOs). Although this kind of business has just started and has not achieved remarkable success, it has begun to attract considerable attention, both from public administration and also from business firms who want to employ "the disabled with ability."

1.3 Difficulties

We have conducted research by means of interviews and questionnaires to clarify the difficulties when a company or a nonprofit organization wishes to employ a person with disabilities, or when a job-seeking disabled person wishes to apply to a prospective employer. We interviewed three experts to find difficulties: the personnel director of the Japan Association of Managers, a physically handicapped person who has been recently employed as a telecommuting worker, and a person working at an NPO that has a long history of supporting employment of the disabled.

The personnel section

The major difficulty for a company to employ a disabled person is to find "the disabled with ability." This is because the career development training program provided by governmental vocational aid centers for people with disabilities is inclined toward simple tasks such as handicrafts, while most companies need people who can use computers and other information equipment. The reason for this discrepancy is that the public employment office is not functioning properly as an agent that intermediates the needs of companies and of NPOs. Also, information and advice concerning employment for the disabled are not publicized in an adequate manner. The various kinds of employment-related information such as subsidy and other assistance from the government are accumulated in an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Labor, called the Japan Association for Employment of the Disabled (JAED). However, the distribution system for such information has not been equipped well in addition to the fact that the quantity of information has fallen far short of necessity. Furthermore, while consultation with respect to problems and troubles is in high demand, there is no appropriate official organization that provides this service.

The applicants

The problem for job seekers with disabilities is that they scarcely have adequate information channels about job vacancies. Most job vacancy information for people with disabilities is held at regional employment offices. However, there are two kinds of problems to gain access to this information. The first is that they have to visit the employment office in person to obtain the information. Certainly, those with physical handicaps face difficulty in having to visit the employment office. The second problem is caused by the fact that the employment office deals with only regional information. Many people with a disability would like to be a teleworker, and in such a case, a prospective employer is not limited to the region he or she lives in. There is no database at governmental placement offices that accumulates nationwide placement information. Furthermore, job vacancy information about telecommuting work itself is extremely rare at the employment offices.


Some NPOs provide career development programs to assist in the employment of disabled persons. However, the fact that disabled persons find it difficult to obtain up-to-date information about what kinds of skills are required to enter into the current job market is a serious problem. It is not sufficient that mere job vacancy information be distributed. To acquire a skill is time-consuming work, and it is important both for NPOs and people with disabilities to be made aware of what skills need to be acquired. Moreover, it is difficult for NPOs to conduct "on-the-job training" programs while various know-hows such as communication or reporting cannot be acquired.

1.4 Problems

We summarize the above discussion into following three parts.

Poor information about job opportunities and job seekers

Job opportunities for people with disabilities are naturally much fewer than those for people without disabilities. However, the more serious problem is that job vacancy information, especially that of telecommuting, rarely reaches disabled job seekers, even if there are companies wanting to hire disabled people. The same can be said for the opposite situation. Employers can rarely find information pertaining to qualified handicapped job seekers, even if there exit prospective employees having the necessary skills to work. This is because the information infrastructure (of both sociological and technical nature) is insufficient and the effort for universal access to such information falls way short of what is needed.

Poor information about related law and about cases

Because the hiring of disabled people by companies has a relatively short history, there has not yet been enough accumulated know-how on how to employ people with disabilities in an effective and satisfactory way, both on the part of employers and employees. This means not only that people with disabilities cannot find useful employment information easily, but that companies also have a hard time finding information about governmental assistance such as subsidies for a disabled person's salary and for company expenditures spent on improvement of facilities for universal access. There has also been a critical need for finding information on the actual cases showing experiences of companies employing disabled persons. Such information is not being provided in any systematic way by the governmental offices.

Poor consultation and discussion between employer and prospective employee

Trouble may occur between employer and employee with disabilities both in the process of employment and after the employment contract has been concluded. The causes of the trouble can vary, but many of them stem from simple inexperience. For example, it is common practice for a telecommuting worker to frequently keep in touch with one's superior, while people with disabilities who have little experience with such practice sometimes ignore the importance of communication. Companies are also not certain how to evaluate the performance of a disabled worker, or what to do when such a worker quits the job.  This may cause hesitation when employing the disabled. Discussion among the peers and consultation of specialists will help to do away with these problems. Especially for people with disabilities, it is said that peer support plays an important part in their social participation and self-determination.

In conclusion, it can be said that in order to promote the employment of people with disabilities, a social and an engineering system are needed to diminish these problems.

2. The design and implementation of Job-Matching Square

Job-Matching Square (JMS) is a service on the Internet that supplies employment-related information to job seekers with disabilities and companies/NPOs who want to employ people with disabilities [1]. The aim of JMS is to provide an "integrated" system to realize an open labor market for the disabled where job-related information circulates and is voluntarily matched. This system includes not only an information system, but also communication tools to build up "information commons." JMS is provided and maintained by VCOM project, a research project to develop "network communities" on the Internet [2][3][4]. The key body running JMS consists of persons from NPOs specialized in working with people with disabilities, the Japan Association for Employment of the Disabled (JAED), an organization affiliated the Ministry of Labor, and other related agencies, a business association for large corporations, universities, and research institutes.

JMS does not act as an intermediary to match "supply" and "demand." JMS merely offers a system that allows voluntary matching to take place in an effective way through the Internet. JMS serves as a place to accumulate and distribute information, both for prospective employers and potential employees.

The main components of JMS are a) people with disabilities who want to work, b) companies and NPOs who want to employ people with disabilities, and c) NPOs and expert volunteers specialized in supporting people with disabilities. As an engineering system, JMS consists of the following three subsystems: a) a job-matching database, b) a mailing list for open forum, and c) a mailing list to provide a personal consultation. In the following we will explain roles and functions of each such subsystem.

2.1 Job-matching database

The job-matching database is the core subsystem of JMS. It functions as a repository of job vacancy and job- seeking information. The job-matching database is built using Oracle 8 and Oracle Web Application Server.

Registration of job-seeking people with disabilities

A person seeking a job needs to register with the job-matching database to be listed on the job-seekers list of JMS. The items to be filled are categorized into two parts: a) items that are open and are accessible by any Internet user, and b) items that are confidential and can be reached only by JMS administrators and people in charge of personnel sections of companies that are registered to JMS. Category "a" consists of registrants' specialties, skills, qualifications, and the types of job and conditions of employment he or she wants, while category "b" consists of registrants' e-mail, career history, kind and degree of disability, and detailed information about conditions of employment such as desired salary range. This form does not contain any items that can be used to identify the registrant, such as name or complete address so that their privacy is protected.

Registration of contract NPOs

Registration for a job application need not be done by a disabled person. NPOs, such as a vocational aid center for the handicapped, may also register with JMS as job contractors. Such NPOs can then negotiate contracts with companies/NPOs for work and allot the work they obtained to the disabled members of the organization. The items to be filled out are the basic information describing the NPO (name, address, representative, and so on), the number of members with disabilities, and past experience with contract work. The qualifications and abilities of members are also to be provided.

Registration of companies/NPOs

Companies or NPOs that are looking to fill a position or looking for an NPO to perform a contracted job are to register their organization information first. After that, they can register job vacancy information, which consists of job description, location, salary, work hours, education requirements, skills and experience, among other items. Acceptable type and/or degree of disabilities and assisting equipment available at the work site and special training program availability are also to be provided. This information will be registered to the job-matching database and will then be a candidate for a database search.

Information browsing and search

Registered organizational information of contracting NPOs and companies/ NPOs can be browsed as a whole list. On the other hand, job seekers' information can be browsed as a partial list that contains only items from category "a" described above. The more sensitive personal information that is included in category "b" is accessible only by companies/NPOs registered in JMS. A database search device is also available. A clickable query interface is prepared to select attributes and conditions so that users can easily input their query.

2.2 Law and case database

As was mentioned in section 1.4, information is extremely inadequate concerning employment of the disabled. This is mostly due to the fact that not much information is available to companies about hiring people with disabilities, and therefore both employees and employers have little experience. For this reason there is a keen demand for effective distribution of information pertaining to items such as employment-related law, official notification from the government, subsidies and/or other types of governmental assistance, and descriptions of the actual cases in which companies employ disabled people. JMS has prepared a law and case database to satisfy some of these requirements.

2.3 Mailing lists

As discussed in section 1.4, anticipation of trouble between an employer and employee may cause a hesitation on the part of prospective employers. Such a fear could and should be removed. Peer communication and consultation with experts would help. To promote the opportunities for employment of people with disabilities, JMS provides the following two mailing lists: 1) a mailing list to exchange information among peers, and 2) a mailing list to offer personal consultation by experts with knowledge and experience in the area of placement of disabled persons. These experts are volunteers who are supporting JMS. These mailing lists and the job-matching database complement each other and work to assist employment over the Internet.

Open forum ML

One of the mailing lists (ML) provided by JMS is an open mailing list for peer support among people with disabilities. Participants of this open ML include job seekers with disabilities, NPO members, persons from a company's personnel section, persons from public administration offices, and others who are interested in the employment of disabled people in general. This ML is used for exchanging general information about employment, and everyday communication in the community that shares an interest in promoting opportunities for disabled persons.

Closed consultation ML

On the other hand, a closed mailing list exists that handles more individual and sensitive information. Members of this closed ML are specialists on disabled's employment issues, such as a person in charge of the personnel section of an association of large businesses, a person from an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Labor, etc. Issues dealt with in this ML range from relatively easy questions such as "what should I do to get a job?" or "how can I learn useful computer skills?" to more complicated problems such as nonfulfillment of a contract and emotional issues. The role of the consultation offered by the ML is not to make a judgment on people or companies, and the final decision is left to the parties concerned.

3. The status quo

JMS started its service in March 1998. As of February 1999, 23 companies/NPOs had registered their job vacancy information and 119 people with disabilities had registered their job-seeking information on JMS. The total number of job seeking information which has been registered on JMS is 731. In view of the fact that while there are only 89 telecommuting disabled workers in all of Japan, and yet most of the job seekers in JMS have first-grade disabilities and would have difficulty commuting to the office, the number of registrations on JMS is quite revealing. The fact that such a large number of registrants exists means that the needs of prospective employees with disabilities who wish to work at home are as yet unsatisfied and that an information system on the Internet offered by JMS has a distinct role in fulfilling these needs by creating a "labor market" for the disabled. We are checking on the results of employment that has actually taken place through JMS and it will be reported in the final submission.

4. Discussion

4.1 Open system for "labor market of the disabled"

Although JMS itself does not actually match "supply" and "demand," it can be used as an information infrastructure for matching to be performed by some intermediary corporation (NPO or business firm). There has been no open labor market for people with disabilities in Japan. (As a matter of fact, the labor market for anybody in Japan is quite limited.) Therefore, people with disabilities have had scarcely any means to appeal their skills and career to the public, while companies/NPOs as prospective employers have had to depend on the public employment office. As explained, government offices have not be very effective for people with disabilities and in particular for telecommuting work. JMS has made available information for both job vacancy and job seeking, realizing for the first time (although the scale is quite limited) a "open labor market for the disabled" in Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Labor has only recently started to examine the possibility of introducing an information distribution system (partly using the Internet) as an extended function of the government employment office. JMS is frequently quoted and examined by government committees to pursue the mission. It is obvious that JMS has inspired, as least in part, such a movement by the government.

4.2 Beyond the disabled

The concept of JMS is not only applicable for creating the "virtual" labor market for the disabled, but also creating the same for a wide range of people, such as aged people or SOHO (small office, home office) workers. A system like JMS can also be effective in matching volunteers and volunteer jobs. Such a matching system would be quite useful as more people are becoming volunteers and more NPOs are being born whose important source of labor is supplied by volunteers.

There is an incredible amount of information on the Internet today. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is regarded as the killer application of the Internet of the next generation. By using EDI, Internet users can gain access to the market directly. It is foreseeable that, to handle this great increase in available data, demands for matching services will increase. Although this paper focuses on the part of human services, our research interests also cover the common nature of various types of matching services.

4.3 Security and trust

A person who is actually applying for a job may not necessarily be the one who is registering personal information for the job application. This may occur when the job seeker cannot use a keyboard or when he or she is mentally disabled. In this case, the person looking after the disabled may act as a proxy by inputting the data. This means that in a system like JMS it is not necessarily the prospective employee who must be authenticated when inputting or changing job-seeking information. Especially, because these data include sensitive information, the matter concerning access control becomes rather complex.

JMS is an open system to which anyone can freely register information. Such openness is a strong point of JMS. However this means that the value of the whole JMS system could be undermined by a registration of unethical information such as misrepresentation, excessive advertisement, and unsolicited invitations. On the other hand, information filtering or censorship imposed by some higher authority goes against the spirit of JMS. The reason being is that VCOM and therefore JMS holds to the principle that the value of information should not be given from "above," but rather the value should emerge from a voluntary network community whose members share a rough sense of mission.

Furthermore, in any open system of which JMS is one, the value of the information provided is always in a way a suspect. As the problem lies in the fact that both "good" and "bad" information has the same standing, our proposed general solution to the problem is to construct and implement a reputation system, thereby leaving the decision of the information's validity up to the users. The system would accumulate and distribute users' reputations according to the shared mission of the pertinent voluntary community. Yet this solution too, has its pitfalls. For instance, in the case of JMS, because disabled people have a long history of being under governmental and other protections, a reputation system that would circulate evaluations of people and organizations may be viewed by some people with disabilities as something not "friendly." For this reason the introduction of such a system must be carried through with utmost discretion and consideration.

This reputation system would pertain more to contracting NPOs in the JMS. This is because the history in Japan dictates that many if not most people with disabilities are not quite independent, nor do they possess sufficient experience to go out and find good employers. Such a situation suggests that intermediary NPOs would have an important role in finding job opportunities. That is, the contracting NPOs as they are called in JMS as explained above, are expected to play an important role. These NPOs could act as credible intermediaries to connect prospective employees and employers. However, it is difficult to distinguish reliable and credible NPOs from those that are not merely by looking at the information that is registered on JMS. Thus, some kind of reputation system is necessary for JMS to be effective. According to Peter F. Drucker, the mission of an NPO is to establish communities and to help people's self-realization [5]. The achievement of NPOs cannot be evaluated merely by the bottom line. For NPOs it is important to gain trust among the members of the supporting community. This suggests that the success of JMS and other similar voluntary matching services may depend on having an effective reputation system.

4.4 Mutual accreditation network

Credibility plays an important role in the activities of an NPO. For example, some NPOs certify organic products that are not grown in chemically fertilized soil and to which agricultural chemicals are not used. However, the criteria for "organicness" may vary, as does the manner in which the contamination is measured. In other words, the manner in which the certification is carried out is equally as important as, or more important, than the fact that the product is certified. That is, credibility of the organization that certifies the product plays the important role. It is often the case that the government as a certifying agent may not receive sufficient trust by consumers as the government is perceived as often acting with a certain political intention. Thus, credible NPOs acting as certifying agents are important. To go one step further, a fair and scientific evaluation of the certifying agent, be it an NPO or a government agency, is also vitally necessary. However, if this authority is held only to be the government, a sufficient credibility of the entire certifying process may not be achieved. Therefore, this evaluation, accreditation of certifying agencies, should be carried out by a network of concerned NPOs with sufficient experience in the particular field.

Returning once more to the topic at hand, on the Internet credibility is often confused with authentication. This is obvious from the fact that authentication in cyberspace is carried out through "digital certification." Furthermore, even the most successful implementations of authentication center on hierarchical or economical accreditation bases and not that of a mutually networked accreditation body.

The function of digital certification is to identify an existence in cyberspace with that in the real world. However, knowing the entity's identity in the real world is not sufficient as criteria to trust the entity in cyberspace. After identifying the cyber existence, an accreditation inquiry should be done. Currently when authenticating an entity, digital certification format X.509 is widely used as the de facto standard. This format has been made public and it is possible for anyone to publish a digital certification according to this format. However, unlike the authentication process, the inquiry process is neither public nor standardized. For example, in case of economical crediting, the inquiry will be done by referring the customer's current credit limit to credit card companies such as VISA, AMX, MASTER, etc., each company providing its own system. It will go well while the inquiry needs only one and fixed data format, however if more than one inquiry is needed, a common data structure and common data distribution protocol for inquiry will be demanded immediately. The same can be said in the case of NPOs that need multiple and mutual accreditation.

Yamasaki, Miyagawa et al. have developed a mutual accreditation infrastructure and have experimented using the pseudo job-matching database of JMS [6] [7]. Although some problems still remain, such as distribution of digital certificate, user interface, and privacy protection, to employ the prototype of a mutual accreditation infrastructure, it is clear that a mutual accreditation infrastructure enables complex and flexible accreditation and access control based on credit through experience.

5. Conclusion

We have constructed an Internet-based system called Job-Matching Square, which is designed for providing an information service to promote opportunities for job matching for people with disabilities. We have been running the system for more than a year for the general public using the Internet. In this paper we discuss the importance of an "integrated" system, that is, a system that provides not only database and information retrieval, but that promotes a building of "information commons" with some communication tools and services including personal consulting and open forum.

In the process of developing JMS, we sought opinions from those who are involved in the promotion of employment and job opportunities for the disabled as well as people with disabilities already employed or seeking jobs. We have facilitated many of these opinions and needs expressed by them to improving JMS. Included in the improvements is an addition of the function for registering contracting NPOs. It can be said that just as JMS is open commons for collaboration among people with different standpoints, the process of developing JMS itself is also a challenging process of collaboration.

In a year of proving the information service, a large number of disabled people have registered with JMS revealing the keen need those people feel for having an information channel. The number of employers responding to JMS has been increasing. Also, there is evidences to indicate that JMS has made some impact on government agencies by starting to examine the possibility of using the Internet to disseminate official placement information to the public. Obviously, JMS is not the only solution to the problem. In particular, creating a reputation system or a robust system for information protection are needed to make a matching service like JMS more credible. We plan to continue providing the information service and revising the JMS system by adapting opinions expressed by users of JMS.


  1. Job Matching Square homepage (in Japanese), http://jms.vcom.or.jp/.
  2. VCOM homepage, http://www.vcom.or.jp/english/index.html.
  3. Miyagawa, S., Kaneko, I., and Murai, J.: Making Network Communities Work, INET '98, 1998.
  4. Miyagawa, S., Kaneko, I., et al.: Constructing and Operating an Internet Site Supporting Network Communities, Proc. of IEICE Internet Workshop '98 (IWS'98), 1998.
  5. Drucker, P. F.: Managing The Nonprofit Organization, Harper Collins Publishers, 1990.
  6. Miyagawa, Shoko and Yamasaki, Shigeichiro: Trust and Reputation in the Internet -- Social Application of the Mutual Crediting System (in Japanese), Business Review Vol.46, No.2, 1998.
  7. Yamasaki, S., Miyagawa, S., et al.: An Authentication Model for Uploaded Information of the "Job Matching System" over the Internet (in Japanese), IPSJ Computer Security Symposium, 1998.

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