Work and employment

The UNCRPD requires governments to ensure that persons with disabilities have the right to earn a living. This is alongside domestic laws that many countries have for including persons with disabilities in the workforce, which use measures such as introduction of quotas and incentives. Full and productive work for people with disabilities is also specifically referenced in the targets for Sustainable Development Goal 8 (Economic Growth and Employment).

In addition to the UNCRPD, various policies and practices can also encourage improved access to work and employment in the formal and informal economies for persons with disabilities, to enable them to achieve greater economic stability for themselves and their families. These include skills training and vocational rehabilitation, which have an important role to play in supporting persons with disabilities towards self-employment and work in the informal sector.

Shifting discriminatory attitudes and ensuring accessibility of workplaces are also fundamental strategies, which can support inclusive workplaces.

Finally, development and enforcement of laws which prohibit discrimination may support the right to employment.

Resources below outline strategies for promoting disability inclusive work and employment, including as demonstrated through program reviews and case studies.

See also: Accessible infrastructure and communications, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Law and justice, and Supporting participation at an individual level.

ILO (2020) Key issues on promoting employment of persons with disabilities

This is a Q&A resource regarding the key issues for promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The questions and answers are designed to help approach the critical issues around disability and work.

International Labour Organization (2017) The Competitive Advantage of Hiring Persons with Disabilities: An Employer’s Guide to Disability Inclusion at the Workplace

This document was produced by ILO Bangladesh in collaboration with the Bangladesh Employers Federation to promote disability inclusive employment within the private sector. Whilst targeted primarily at business leaders, it provides good advice about how disability inclusion can be achieved within the private sector, relevant to a development context. The clear instruction on how businesses can foster disability inclusion may inform program design decisions and be used as a tool to share with stakeholders around disability inclusion in the private sector.

Banks, L M and Polack, S (2014) The economic costs of exclusion and gains of inclusion of people with disabilities: evidence from low and middle income countries

This report presents the results of a systematic review on the association between disability and poverty in low and middle income countries, finding that 80 per cent of studies found a link between disability and poverty. It then summarises evidence of exclusion and barriers to inclusion of persons with disabilities in areas including work and employment. It highlights that there is in an impact for exclusion on individual and household incomes, labour productivity, social assistance spending and tax revenue, and business profitability. It is useful for those seeking evidence and estimates of economic costs from exclusion and gains from inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Mina C (2010) Employment choices of persons with disability in metro Manila

This paper examines how persons with disabilities in the Philippines make a living and determines the factors that influenced their engagement in particular labour markets. Econometric analyses were undertaken using data from the 2008 Survey on Socioeconomic Conditions of Persons with Disability in Metro Manila, from which the work and educational status of persons with disabilities is analysed. The paper presents recommendations for policy development to support the creation of more livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities and an enabling environment to support uptake of these opportunities. This paper is of use to stakeholders seeking to develop policy which supports greater employment and work opportunities for persons with disabilities.

International Labour Organization (2011) Persons with disability and the India labour market: Challenges and opportunities

This report analyses the situation for persons with disabilities in Indian labour markets and identifies strategic recommendations for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in employment opportunities. Case studies are used to outline good practices in state-owned and private sector enterprises, as well as industry associations. Lessons learned are useful for consideration by stakeholders seeking to design and implement similar work in different contexts.

International Labour Organization (2013) The informal economy and decent work: A policy resource guide supporting transitions to formality

This guide provides an overview of strategies which support development of disability inclusive skills development and productive work options. Using case studies, the guide outlines the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in accessing decent work and strategies for overcoming these.

International Labour Organization (2011) Achieving equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities through legislation

This online education guide aims to support users in the development, implementation and evaluation of employment legislation and policy which promotes equal employment opportunities. In doing so it provides guidance for enabling the participation of persons with disabilities in work and employment. This training guide can support self-directed or group learning by donors, government implementers and/or advocates.

Inclusion Works! Is a lessons learned report on an EU funded food security project in Bangladesh implemented by a Consortium of mainstream and disability focused NGOs, targeting women with disabilities for economic empowerment opportunities. It is an excellent resource with practical guidance on how to ensure inclusion of people with disabilities into food security projects, full of case studies and practical guidance. This would be useful as a guide when reviewing similar projects or to pass on to implementing partners who are looking for ways to enhance disability inclusion in their project. It has a helpful checklist for ensuring disability inclusion across the program cycle and suggested resources for further guidance.

Sanchez, Jeannette. (2015). International Labour Organisation: Geneva Moving towards disability inclusion: Stories of change

This publication produced by the ILO-Irish Aid Partnership Program discusses approaches to disability inclusive employment through case examples from the “Promoting Rights and Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Employment through Legislation” (PROPEL) program in Indonesia, Ethiopia, Zambia, China and Vietnam. The publication provides examples of approaches which could be replicated or scaled up, in particular supported employment for job seekers with intellectual disabilities, inclusive vocational education and training and the establishment of national business and disability networks.

This is an updated version of the case studies originally published by the ILO in 2011 under the same name. ILO Global Business and Disability Network have presented 14 case studies on how national employers’ organisations and business networks have been utilised to promote disability inclusion within the private sector. With examples from both development contexts and high income countries, these case studies are useful to determine best practices around how national business networks can be powerful tools in promoting disability inclusion and promoting legislative and policy reform. Although there are many examples from high income countries included in the case studies, key themes can be helpful in determining strategic direction of how business networks can be used to promote disability inclusion within the private sector in a development context.

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Picture of a man in Bangladesh sitting at a computer. He is using his left foot to operate the keyboard to his computer.

Photo: Broja Gopal Saha, 2011

Russell (35) works at Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) in Dhaka to advocate for the rights for people with disabilities in Bangladesh. To read more click here. Copyright: Centre for Disability in Development /CBM Australia