GENEVA (ILO News) - The International Labour Office (ILO) today welcomed the unanimous adoption by the United Nations of a new Convention for people with disabilities, saying provisions of the ground-breaking Convention would benefit millions of people whose inability to find jobs due to social exclusion costs the global economy an estimated US$1.9 trillion dollars per year.
The ILO said provisions on work and employment of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reflect a dramatic shift from the past - the Convention amounts to the first major human rights treaty of the 21st century. Around 470 million disabled women and men of working age will be affected by the Convention's provisions on work, the ILO said.
ILO experts said the Convention represents a major change in that it prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all forms of employment, and calls on states to open up opportunities in mainstream workplaces to job seekers with disabilities in contrast to past practice, in which large numbers worked in sheltered workshops, in conditions not covered by employment or minimum wage laws.
To facilitate this, the Convention promotes the access of disabled persons to freely chosen work, general technical and vocational guidance programmes, placement services and vocational and continuing training. It will help disabled people find and keep jobs by promoting improved accessibility of workplaces, calling for improved transport and access to information in written and electronic form.
"The Convention marks a ground-breaking change in the way disability issues are regarded in international law", said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "When we promote the rights and dignity of people with disabilities, we are empowering individuals, strengthening economies and enriching societies at large. This treaty is a pathway to independence and the dignity of decent work."
The UN Convention will be open for signature and ratification on 30 March 2007. When it enters into effect, one month after it has been ratified by 20 countries, disabled workers will have the possibility of exercising their labour and trade union rights on an equal basis with others, and discrimination on the basis of disability will be prohibited in all forms of employment. Where workers become disabled while in employment, their jobs will be protected through job retention measures, and provisions will be made for vocational and professional rehabilitation, and return to work.
The ILO made recommendations to the drafting committee which set up the Convention and will work with governments, employers' and workers' organizations as well as disabled persons' organizations worldwide to implement it. The provisions of the new Convention are in line with ILO standards - particularly ILO Convention on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons (No. 159) of 1983, ILO Human Resources Development Recommendation (No. 195) of 2004 and the 2001 ILO Code of Practice on Managing Disability in the Workplace.