By Akanimo Sampson
International Labour Organisation (ILO) says persons with disabilities constitute a largely untapped pool of talent in the labour market.
They are estimated to be about 15 per cent of the world’s population of 7.8 billion people which translates to 1.14 billion.
According to ILO, they face a high risk of being marginalised further as the world of work undergoes rapid transformations, including technological developments, climate change and demographic shifts.
“As a result, existing inequalities may increase, unless countries implement a range of measures to tackle the issue,’’ says ILO.
In the European Union, for instance, 60 per cent of persons with disabilities have jobs, while the rate for the rest of the population is 82 per cent.
Based on statistics of 2017 from the European Commission, in the United States, it is 37 per cent, compared to 77 per cent.
On average, workers with disabilities earn less than workers without disabilities and are often denied access to education, technologies and social protection, among other essentials.
But at the same time, an increasing number of companies are revising their policies and practices, including those relating to diversity and inclusion, human resources and accessibility, so that persons with disabilities have better access to employment opportunities.
The Valuable 500 campaign was launched at the 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos. Supported by ILO’s Global Business and Disability Network, the campaign called on the CEOs of 500 companies, to put disability on their boards’ agenda.
‘’Since then, more than 240 companies have made the commitment. At this year’s WEF meeting there was overwhelming agreement that we need to take more action on disability inclusion’’, says a blog post on WEF website.
However, alongside all the initiatives, there need to be mechanisms in place to allow for the monitoring of progress and to see whether there are actually follow up on the leave no one behind the commitment that the world made as part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
However, the key to this is having data that is disaggregated for disability.
This is sometimes seen as being complicated because of diverse national definitions and issues relating to confidentiality and other factors.
The good news is that there is an international agreement on how to identify persons with disabilities so that we can have reliable and comparable statistics that will allow us to track the inclusion gap.
This agreed methodology – the Washington Group set of questions – allows mainstream surveys, like labour force surveys, to include six short questions to identify the population with disabilities in a given context.
ILO says it has built on this with a module that allows countries to gain more in-depth information on the situation of persons with disabilities and the root causes that prevent them from accessing the labour market.
In the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, governments, workers’ and employers’ representatives of the ILO’s 187 member states declared that the ILO must direct its efforts to “ensuring equal opportunities and treatment in the world of work for persons with disabilities.”
ILO is committed to driving the discussion on disability inclusion. Measuring and monitoring progress will be vital if we are to go beyond words.