Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘employment’

People with Disabilities and the Recession


With the recession, tough economic times are upon most of us. Companies continue to maintain their freeze on recruitment, salary cuts are common, and layoffs informed to employees an hour before the end of the week. Non written communication to work longer hours is common place. Most people are glad they can retain their job, but the axe is not, say most companies, a matter of choice, some people must go so that the majority can stay, and during this time of deep economic uncertainty one wonders about  the situation of People with disabilities (PwDs).

India has nearly 70 million PwDs in the country. Those lucky to be employed predominantly find themselves in IT companies, telemarketing and BPOs.  A survey of the top 100 corporate houses in India, in 1999, show a mere 0.4% of their workforce was PwDs. Nothing has dramatically changed in the last ten years, PwDs continue to struggle to get employment in the best of times and with the current freeze on recruitment, their chances are as good as zero. Additionally is the bias that PwDs are ‘incapable’, most companies also unwilling or unable to make their premises ‘accessible’, which also acts as a hurdle, and so one can conclude with worrying certainty that PwDs are twice as badly hit by the recession as non disabled people.

If disability groups were demanding tax rebates as incentives for companies hiring PwDs before, now the situation is far more urgent. More so as most PwDs require to earn approximately twice as much as their non disabled counterparts to enjoy the same standard of living.

Few know with any certainty when the recession is going to end or how long it will take the economy to recover, would the Government then undertake a study to find out the effects of the recession on PwDs, would it then take measures to change the situation. Most disability groups believe, that with more pressing needs, they have little chance of getting Government attention. They have fewer expectations as none of the political parties even made a mention of these 70 million PwDs in their election manifesto. All PwDs can expect are a few more social welfare schemes, but with a limited budget and a large number of PwDs clamoring for them, chances are slim that there will be a diametric change.

Whether we like it or not, the 70 million PwDs are too big a population to ignore and brush aside, whether the new Government at the centre likes it or not, it will have to do something that will improve the economic lives of PwDs and pull them back from the ‘vulnerable’ list.

As I look around, I see the recession has turned into a god sent opportunity for young enterprising Indians. I am seeing more people in their 30s set up businesses of their own than ever before and perhaps PwDs need to be heading in the same direction.

With a little bit financial assistance from the Government and some training on business they are just as capable of success as any other businessman and we hope that’s what they will get by way of Government assistance.

Employment is key to empowerment

IN PERSPECTIVE

Persons with disabilities must get training and reservation in public and private jobs.

Employment is increasingly being viewed as the key to break the vicious cycle of poverty, social marginalization and lack of access to rights — something people with disabilities (PWDs) are often trapped in. Yet one cannot fail to realize that there are quite a few hurdles for both the employer and the employee in the context of recruiting PWDs.

The National Sample Survey Organisation 2002 report on “Disabled Persons in India” reveals that 55 per cent of PWDs are illiterate and even with the implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhayan; things don’t look ready to change drastically. Thus only a very small set of PWDs are really employable.

PWDs want educational opportunities so that they can get into the top echelons of decision making and influence the bureaucracy in a positive way. Unemployment in general is rising and the competition is growing stiffer. The employability of PWDs further suffers as few of the work environments in the public or private sector are really accessible. It is only in the recent past that companies are beginning to realize that their offices are indeed unfriendly to PWDs and architects are only now beginning to integrate an inclusive sensibility into their designs.

Fundamental right

However, the last few years have been seeing a major shift. For one, PWDs have begun vociferously arguing that employment is one of their fundamental rights. The Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995, Chapter 6 on employment talks about identifying and reserving posts, setting up of Special Employment Exchanges, coming up with schemes for ensuring employment and providing incentives to employers to ensure five per cent of the work force is composed of PWDs. Three per cent of government jobs identified are reserved for PWDs, of these; one per cent is designated for people with visual, hearing and locomotor disabilities.

In 2001, the government initiated expert committees to identify the types of jobs suitable for people with different disabilities. A list of over 1,900 jobs had been prepared and circulated to all ministries of the government, while 1,075 jobs in the private sector were identified. A decade down the line however the number of PWDs who are unemployed is soaring and the government doesn’t have much to show for progress either. Not only has the government failed to implement its own laws, but it has also allowed the backlog to build by freezing employment in its own departments.

Here the private sector has seen the benefits of employing PWDs, not only are PWDs more focused at their work thus enabling larger output but the labour turnover for them is also comparatively low. Employing PWDs also sits well with the private sectors “corporate social responsibility”.

Reservation

The disability sector is at a crossroad. The PWDs are demanding fair representation in the labour market. They are demanding a mandatory five per cent reservation in employment in both the public and private sectors and to be brought within the first 10 listings in the reservation roster.

With unemployment rates soaring, PWDs are asking the government to put greater thrust on self-employment opportunities by making it easier to access loans, by reducing paper work, and give more soft loans. There is also a need to modify labour and industrial policy to give incentives to companies that employ PWD, ensure companies make their work environment fully accessible and that penalties be imposed on employers who discriminate against PWDs.

The key to increasing the employability of PWDs is to provide them vocational training. PWDs are demanding that they should not be denied admission to any vocational training institution/program whether run by government, public or private sector merely on the grounds of disability and all vocational training institutions have a five percent reservation of seats for them.

The presently defunct Special Employment Centres need to be revived and to be involved in promoting employment opportunities by identifying appropriate jobs and requirements.

The above article has been published on the 9th of January 2007 in the Bangalore edition of the Deccan Herald

http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/jan92007/editpage213715200718.asp

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