As people with disabilities have on average a lower level of formal education, they also have more difficulties in finding employment. Even after participating in further education, they still face discrimination at the hands of employers and colleagues. Consequently the levels of unemployment and underemployment of people with disabilities are much higher compared to the rest of the population. And even if people with disabilities have a job, on average they earn less than people without disabilities. This lack of employment naturally leads to income poverty. Data on unemployment rates of people with disabilities are rare or unreliable, as such data depend on the definition of disability and unemployment (see Hernández-Licona, pp. 3-6) For example, in a number of Latin American countries somebody is only defined as disabled if he/she is unemployed. The ILO suggests that unemployment rates among people with disabilities are two to three times higher than among people without disabilities. Consequently, high numbers of individuals with disabilities depend on engagement in the informal sector, on self-employment or even on begging to earn their living.
For a long time special vocational workshops have been the main solution used in the employment sector, although such workshops are again a western approach imported to developing countries, with two key drawbacks in that they are restricted in number and do not enhance social inclusion. Promoting a different approach, the ILO devised Standards on Management of Disability at the Workplace, providing orientation in this area. Solutions generally propose improvements to the legal framework, which should eliminate exclusion and facilitate employment, for example by giving subsidies to employers who recruit people with disabilities. This is a field where DPOs and (I)NGOs can assist in lobbying and advocacy work as well as in providing advice on how workplaces should be designed. Regarding both the employment and the education sectors, policies should avoid creating parallel structures, but instead promote a single structure which facilitates access to the same opportunities for all.
In fact, in most developing countries a great number of people live or work in the informal sector and on subsistence agriculture; only a minority of people are formally employed, yet employment policies only address this minority. Therefore strategies specifically need to consider people with disabilities in a rural context. To support people with disabilities in becoming self-employed, they should be integrated into existing funding mechanisms such as micro credits and loan schemes. These systems therefore need be made accessible.
Examples from PRSP
PRSP Tanzania, 2005:
“Develop affirmative action to create employment opportunities for youth, women and people with disabilities.” (United Republic of Tanzania, Vice President’s Office, 2005)
PRSP Malawi, 2006 p. 40:
"Finally, people with disabilities are usually the most affected in terms of access to assets and other facilities required to become economically empowered. They experience difficulties accessing financial services and capital, skills development programmes, and technology developments. They are also the most affected by poor infrastructure such as roads, communication, and buildings not designed to accommodate or meet their special needs. A coherent and integrated approach is needed to contribute towards solving the various causes of disempowerment, which exist in different sectors of the poor and disadvantaged in Malawi."
PRSP Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2004, p. 142:
"Develop instruments to encourage and assist in employment of disabled veterans, veterans and family members of killed and missing soldiers:
Earmark funds for co-financing generation of new jobs for military disabled, as it is the best method of their labor related rehabilitation,
Earmark funds for adaptation of work areas and procurement of special technical equipment, needed for employment of people with more severe disabilities."
I-PRSP Afghanistan, 2006, p. 225:
"By end-2010, increased assistance will be provided to meet the special needs of all disabled people, including their integration in society through opportunities for education and gainful employment."
ILO (2002): Managing Disability at the Workplace. ILO Code of Practice. Geneva. (This guide includes definitions of employers, discrimination, vocational rehabilitation, etc.)
Hernández-Licona, Gonzalo (2004): Disability and the Labour Market: Data Gaps and Needs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Disabled People’s Association, Singapore (nd): Employing Somebody Who Is Disabled.
Mont, Daniel (2004): Disability Employment Policy. World Bank Social Protection Discussion Paper.
Handicap International (2006): Good Practice for the Economic Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Developing Countries. Funding Mechanisms for Self-Employment.