Disability and Employment

Lekhnath Paudel

Present Context
For persons with disabilities, employment and financial independence are crucial dimensions of social integration. It is because these dimensions empower them for independent life and self-decision-making capacity. According to Nepal’s 2011 census, the prevalence of disability in the country is 1.94%. However, many organizations disagree with this data and claim that the actual prevalence rate of disability is higher than the reported rate in the census.

The Department of Economics and Social Affairs of the United Nations has reported that 80-90 % of the disabled population is unemployed in developing countries whereas it is between 50 to 70% in industrialized countries. In the majority of developed nations, the official unemployment rate for persons with disabilities of working age is at least as twice that for persons with no disabilities.

In Nepal, persons with disabilities struggle to find work and are most likely to be unemployed. Even if they get jobs, they are more likely to be underpaid. Reasons for unemployment and underpayment of disabled persons can be mentioned as follows; lack of effective implementation of legislation, negative attitude of and over expectations by employers, discrimination and harassment by co-workers and employers, lack of disability-friendly workplaces and infrastructures, and lack of optimal education and required skills by disabled persons. However, these reasons do not necessarily mean that nothing has been done with regard to the unemployment crisis of disabled persons. For example, many disabled persons are working happily without any discrimination in some organizations in Nepal. In recent times, an awareness of equal employment opportunities for disabled persons has grown, and many private financial or business organizations have started to discuss how they can create a working environment for persons with disabilities so that these persons can work and equally contribute to the organizations.

Legal Provisions:
The Labor Act 2017 and National Employment Policy 2015 make little mention of persons with Disabilities.
Rights for Persons with Disabilities Act 2017 ensures non-discrimination in work and employment for persons with disabilities. It clearly states: ‘No enterprise shall make discrimination against the persons with disabilities, with regard to employment and any matter related thereto.’

International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 159 mentions vocational rehabilitation measures for all categories of disabled persons and promotion of employment opportunities and equal treatment of persons with disabilities.

Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) recognizes the right of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others.

The government of Nepal has reserved 5% of all jobs in the civil service industry for disabled persons. The government-owned enterprises have also the same provisions on employment reservations for persons with disabilities.

The general stereotype about disability and work should be removed as the persons with disabilities do not expect to be treated with the feelings of sympathy; rather they want all the stakeholders to work together for the upliftment and equal opportunity for employment and financial inclusion by demolishing the major mental and physical barriers which are deeply enrooted in the society. Removal of these barriers will be the most powerful tool to bring disabled persons on an equal footing in society.

Here, it is essential to mention what the United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs has quoted- ‘Persons with disabilities are frequently not considered potential members of the workforce. Perception, fear, myth and prejudice continue to limit the understanding and acceptance of disability in workplaces everywhere.’ Similarly, as per the ILO, people with disabilities face enormous attitudinal, physical and informational barriers to equal opportunities in the world.
In Nepal, because people with disabilities experience social stigma and prejudice which are contributing largely to the mistreatment and marginalization of the disabled persons by the society, they are reluctant to disclose their identity as disabled persons.

Be a Change Factor
Disabled persons are suffering economically and socially because of the discrimination and the stigma attached to them. Additionally, the flip side of the coin is even more miserable. In the majority, we, human resources (HR) professionals of many financial or business organizations, have hardly spent time to think about disability and work and explore solutions where space for employment can be created within our organizations for persons with disabilities. As per the current picture in many organizations, either the candidate is being rejected or he/she has already been started to be evaluated negatively if someone is found to be disabled during the hiring and selection process. This is hard to accept; however, this is the bitter truth of our job market. Every small positive step taken by one organization to hire and employ persons with disabilities counts a lot to them and gives impactful inspiration to the other organizations in the country.

We, HR Professionals, should provide a positive contribution to hiring and working with disabled persons if we truly believe that we are a change factor in organizational development. We do not need more than a positive mindset and a little bit of empathy while hiring, selecting and working with persons with disabilities.

Knowing the types of disabilities and their strengths and weaknesses would help to plan which area would be the best job fit without affecting the productivity and work of an organization. For example, if a company needs to hire a person for its call center unit, this will be the best job fit for a visually impaired person. This placement is the WIN-WIN deal for the organization and persons with disabilities where the productivity and work of the organization are not compromised.
The role of HR Persons working in every organization should not only be reflected in the hiring process but also in creating a dignified working environment for persons with disabilities. So, the role of HR professionals in this regard will be true gameplay for a change in the disabled population. Similarly, it is our responsibility to make sure that no one is underpaid because of his/her disabilities.

The Way Forward
Board members, high-ranking officials in the management especially Heads of the Organizations, HR Professionals and colleagues should change the mentality regarding employment and work with the person with disabilities. The biggest challenge ever in front of us is breaking down the mental barrier that has been occupied in our minds for many years. The following considerations may help change the poor employment rates amongst disabled persons.
Vocational Rehabilitation: A well-managed and structured vocational rehabilitation process should be considered to train for employment, skill enhancement, job counseling, adaptation, various training and coaching programs, and educational programs if needed.

Social Security: The government of Nepal has envisioned the Social Security Fund [SSF] to be the true social security option for persons with disabilities who lose their employment due to job inflicted disabilities. However, the government should have a wider plan to cover the persons with disabilities who do not come under the SSF scheme and are already unemployed due to disabilities.

Look for creative solutions: Overcoming mental and structural barriers to employment will take time. So, we collectively need to explore the wide and creative range of employment for persons with disabilities. Employment shouldn’t always mean that all persons with disabilities should work in factories, banks and similar institutions because there are numerous options that are yet to be explored where their disabilities will be fewer barriers to their employment and earning.
Collective Commitment for Change: New commitment from the government, the non-profit sector, and the private sector is most needed for structural changes such as the reconstruction of disability-friendly buildings, roads, staircases, washrooms, work stations, work accessories, etc.

Policy Level Changes: Depending on the nature of the organizations, minor and major changes in HR Bylaws and Hiring Policies the organizations will be the crucial initiative to bring change at the ground level for persons with disabilities.

Paudel is Head of Human Resources at Shangri-la Development Bank Limited.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top