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Radoš Keravica

Rados Keravica holds a master degree from University of Novi Sad, Faculty for Economics. His research interests are related to social policy and social entrepreneurship.In 2011 he joined the Center for Society Orientation in Belgrade and Disability Rights Promotion International as Regional Officer for Europe. Through his work he has engaged in human rights monitoring focusing on disability and PLHIV rights, community-based social service development, deinstitutionalization processes, policy advice in the field of social inclusion, and reporting under international human rights mechanisms, among others.Mr. Keravica is a Co-chair of the IDDC Task Group on HIV & Disability.
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According to the latest EU data, there is still a 26% difference in employment rates for persons with and without disabilities across the EU[1]. This is 30 percentage points lower than the Europe 2020 target of 75%[2] employment for persons with disabilities.

Author: Rados Keravica


Instead of being passive recipients of social benefits and objects of charity, persons with disabilities are to be regarded as potential for society, contributors to sustainable development of society and taxpayers. Still, they are widely disregarded as burden for society and are facing numerous challenges in access to open labour market.

According to the latest EU data, there is still a 26% difference in employment rates for persons with and without disabilities across the EU[1]. This is 30 percentage points lower than the Europe 2020 target of 75%[2] employment for persons with disabilities. Despite the implementation of different national and regional labour market policies and affirmative measures in place, the participation rate of persons with disabilities is significantly lower than among persons without disabilities, which reinforces social inequalities.

What underlying factors cause such exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour market? Undoubtedly, the entrenched prejudices and stereotypes of employers related to alleged low productivity, often sick leaves, and limited working capacity of people with disabilities have a lot to do with the exclusion from labour markets. But too often we hear these arguments by decision-makers as an excuse for failing to enhance employment rates of persons with disabilities. Are the public policies related to equality in employment really adequate and efficient?

As the EU has some shared competence in the field of employment of persons with disabilities, its strivings to enable employment for all are reflected in the Employment Equality Directive. However, the aforementioned Directive has been poorly implemented due to the low awareness on disability rights, but even more important due to inadequate understanding of the concept of reasonable accommodation in the workplace introduced by the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Accordingly, employers “shall take appropriate measures, where needed in a particular case, to enable a person with a disability to have access to, participate in, or advance in employment, or to undergo training, unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer.”[3]

Such “burden” for employers is actually compensated by Member States through their employment and disability policy measures. However, the concept of reasonable accommodation insists that the denial of reasonable accommodation in the workplace has to be considered a form of discrimination, which the Directive fails to recognize and thus leaves little space for persons with disabilities to exercise their right effectively. Secondly, the Directive is not precise on what “reasonable accommodation” includes and leaves that to interpretations of individual Member States, which results in divergence of legal provisions across the EU. Consequently, some important forms of reasonable accommodations are often missed out, such as: flexible working hours, reduced working hours, job coaches, on-the-job training, adjusted equipment and office premises, etc[4].

When it comes to employment policies falling within competence of national States, they usually thrive upon so-called “quota-levy schemes” for employment of persons with disabilities as an affirmative action measure. It sets out the binding obligation for employers to employ a certain number or percentage of employees with disabilities based on the total number of their employees. Usually, such measures are granting employers permission to fulfil their obligations either by paying fines or buying products or services stemming from enterprises, which employ persons with disabilities. Practice has shown that new employment is not happening to the extent that was expected due to employers’ preference of choosing the alternative options. The quota system should be questioned and revised periodically based on the monitoring data of labour market trends.

Furthermore, supply of jobs has to be compared with workforce supply of persons with disabilities. Taking into account qualifications of jobseekers, type and degree of disability and comparing it with the offered jobs, countries could get a clearer idea which sectors are capable of absorbing the targeted workforce before deciding on whether to adopt a single quota system covering all employers or whether to set separate quotas for specific sectors or regions. Having uniformed quotas for all business sectors may seem unjustifiable. For example, sectors that are short on manual workers may be less able to offer adequate jobs for persons with disabilities in comparison with the service sector or the public sector. The relative size of the agricultural, industrial and service sectors varies from region to region and each sector, containing different production processes, offers different possibilities for employing people with various disability types. Therefore, as an example, it cannot be expected that construction companies fulfil the quota request and offer the same number of jobs as the retail sector. It is not only the question of disability levels, but more importantly, it is a question of jobseekers’ working capacities and their educational attainments. Germany was the first country to introduce varying quota-levy schemes in the 1950s. From the onset, Germany introduced a 10% quota for the public and banking sector, whilst the rest of the private sector had to meet a 6% quota.

Matching jobseekers’ profile with job offers, designing quotas accordingly and providing reasonable accommodation through different employment policy schemes are key conditions for overcoming a situation that has been aggravated by the economic crisis.

Access to employment is both a fundamental right and a necessary condition for persons with disabilities to be able to live independently and increase the quality of their lives. Unfortunately, the employment rate of persons with disabilities is still low and the EU itself as well as its Member States should evaluate and redesign their employment policies in order to reassure the active participation of persons with disabilities in society.


[1] European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 2012 (EU-SILC)

[2] European Disability Strategy 2010 – 2020

[3] Employment Equality Directive, article 5.

[4] International Labour Organization: Achieving Equal Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities through Legislation, Guidelines, 2014

[1] European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 2012 (EU-SILC)

[2] European Disability Strategy 2010 – 2020

 

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Rados Keravica holds a master degree from University of Novi Sad, Faculty for Economics. His research interests are related to social policy and social entrepreneurship. In 2011 he joined the Center for Society Orientation in Belgrade and Disability Rights Promotion International as Regional Officer for Europe. Through his work he has engaged in human rights monitoring focusing on disability and PLHIV rights, community-based social service development, deinstitutionalization processes, policy advice in the field of social inclusion, and reporting under international human rights mechanisms, among others. Mr. Keravica is a Co-chair of the IDDC Task Group on HIV & Disability.

4 Responses to “People with disabilities as an invisible workforce potential” Subscribe

  1. Anonymous 12/05/2015 at 2:33 am #

    Dear Rados,

    I really enjoyed reading your piece.

    Thank you for shedding some light on a critical issue that has yet to be resolved!

    Best,

    Athena

    • Rados 13/05/2015 at 7:58 pm #

      Thank you Athena! It is indeed true that it still remains to be resolved. Feel free to give your opinion… There is a divergence of employment policies and active labour market measures across the world… Sharing different proposals might help us to identify best solutions!

      Rados

  2. Gautam chaudhury 13/05/2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Dear Rados,

    I really enjoyed reading your piece.

    Thank you for shedding some light on a critical issue that has yet to be resolved!.I am from India & looking for International assignments to join.I am a PWD.

    Best,
    Gautam
    gautam.chaudhury72@gmail.com

    • Rados 13/05/2015 at 8:01 pm #

      Thank you Gautam for being interested and taking time to go through this op-ed. Please feel free to check out the web page of Disability Rights Promotion International which I work for. We have Regional Center in New Delhi for Asia-Pacific region. I know that the movement of PWDs is quite vibrant in India…you can find more information on our activities over there if you follow this link http://drpi.research.yorku.ca/asia-pacific/

      All the best

      Rados

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