Improving Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities at the Heart of ILO/Japan Meeting

ILO/Japan meeting participants addresses the important challenge of improving vocational training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, advocating the ratification of ILO Convention 159.

Press release | BANGKOK | 13 January 2003

BANGKOK (ILO News) – Participants at a three-day ILO/Japan meeting beginning on Tuesday at the United Nations’ Conference Centre (UNCC) will be addressing the important challenge of improving vocational training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

This issue is of particular concern in Asia and the Pacific, where half of the world’s disabled population lives. Some 238 million disabled people in the region are of working age, and this group is disproportionately underrepresented in schools and training centres. Without the opportunity of education and training opportunities, they face additional hurdles in securing jobs or starting businesses. People with disabilities frequently face obstacles that are physical, social, attitudinal and policy-related, which ultimately represents discrimination. The end result is that people with disabilities often face the prospect of poverty and a lack of opportunities, and society loses the benefit of their contribution.

The ILO/Japan Technical Consultation on Vocational Training and Employment of People with Disabilities represents the ILO’s initial contribution to the recently extended Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (2003-2012). It aims to advance the training and employment targets adopted by governments in the region in Otsu, Japan as part of the Biwako Millennium Framework of Action towards an Inclusive, Barrier-Free and Rights-Based Society for People with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific.

Representatives of governments, disabled persons organizations, trade unions and employers’ groups from fourteen countries will participate, making this the largest ILO meeting in the region to address the employment and training needs of people with disabilities. The meeting will identify priority areas for action and ways in which these can best be addressed.

"This meeting provides the ideal opportunity for people with disabilities, governments and social partners to strategize about how to address the high rates of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion people with disabilities face throughout the region," says Debra Perry, ILO senior specialist in vocational rehabilitation for the region. "We also hope to bring renewed attention to ILO Convention 159 which calls for equal opportunity and treatment for disabled persons."

Following the three-day meeting, a consultation will take place on 17 January, on the ILO project ‘Employment of People with Disabilities – the Impact of Legislation’.

Funded by the Government of the Republic of Ireland through the Ireland Aid-ILO Partnership Agreement, this project examines the operation of laws and policies to promote employment opportunities for disabled persons and provides technical assistance for countries in Asia and Africa in improving the effectiveness of existing legislation or developing new laws or regulations. Coordinated by the ILO’s Disability Programme in Geneva, this project will play an important role in supporting countries in the region to achieve the targets laid down in the Biwako Framework for Action.

The ILO has long supported the rights of people with disabilities, and has been a strong advocate for the rights of disabled workers. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the ILO’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention (No. 159). Countries that ratify the Convention pledge to develop programmes and practices to implement a vocational rehabilitation policy based on equal opportunity and treatment for disabled persons, in consultation with representative organizations of employers, workers and people with disabilities. So far, six countries in this region - Australia, Japan, Mongolia, the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea – are among the 73 countries which have ratified Convention 159.

In November 2001, the ILO Governing Body adopted the Code of Practice for Managing Disability in the Workplace. This provides guidance to employers on how to recruit people with disabilities and maintain employment for workers who become disabled, enabling them to benefit from the contribution which workers with disabilities can make. The Code also highlights the important roles of governments, employers’, workers’ and disabled persons’ organizations in promoting equal opportunities for disabled people at work. Both Convention 159 and the Code of Practice provide importance guidance on the issues which countries of Asia and the Pacific are now facing in promoting opportunities for people with disabilities.

Mr Yasuyuki Nodera, ILO Regional Director for the Asia-Pacific, and Mr Weerasak Kowsurat, Advisor to Minister of Social Development and Human Security, will deliver addresses during the inaugural session on Tuesday at 8.30 am at the United Nations’ Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok.

Media representatives are cordially invited to attend the opening ceremony.

Interview slots may be arranged for the following:

Venus Ilagen, World Chair, Disabled Peoples’ International

Barbara Murray, Manager, Equity Issues, Skills Development Department (IFP/SKILLS), International Labour Organization (ILO)

Debra Perry, Senior Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation, EASMAT/BAO, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.