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ILO Global Business and Disability Network

Persons with disabilities need new roadmap to join future world of work

Those with disabilities will face additional challenges in reaping the benefits of changes affecting the world of work, according to a new report. The publication also outlines a roadmap to help create a more equitable future of work.

News | 21 November 2019
© Mitchell Maher / IFPRI
GENEVA (ILO News) – Five key objectives need to be met if people with disabilities are to benefit from the major trends shaping the new world of work, according to a new report.

There are estimated to be one billion people in the world with disabilities. They already face challenges that hamper their participation in the world of work and place them at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion. Across eight geographical regions, an average of 36 per cent of working age persons with disabilities are in employment, compared to 60 per cent of the general population.

As consumers, persons with disabilities represent more than US$1.2 trillion in annual disposable income, and, as societies age, this market for goods and services is expected to increase, the study says.

Making the future of work inclusive of people with disabilities, is a joint publication of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, Fundación ONCE and KPMG Spain. It was developed within the framework of Disability Hub Europe.

New megatrends are reshaping the world of work and have the potential to improve the quality of life and work, albeit coming with significant challenges, the report says. These trends are relate to technology, skills, cultural change, demographic shifts and climate change. If disadvantaged groups, including persons with disabilities, are to benefit from these transformations a new roadmap is needed, it adds.

“The consequences of [these trends is] unclear, but the rise in inequality and the effects on those more disadvantages sectors of society, such as persons with disabilities, are a matter of concern….and a growing strategic risk,” the report advises.

The authors identify five key objectives necessary if persons with disabilities are to be included in the future of work.
  1. New forms of employment and employment relations must integrate disability inclusion;
  2. Skills development and lifelong learning must be inclusive;
  3. New infrastructure, products and services must follow the principles of Universal Design (meaning they can be accessed, understood and used by all);
  4. Assistive technologies must be affordable and available; and
  5. More measures to include persons with disabilities in growing and developing areas of the economy are needed.
In addition, social protection systems are an important complement to achieve a future of work inclusive of those with disabilities.

The report points out that an explicit reference to the need to ensure equal opportunities and treatment for persons with disabilities is included in the call for a human-centred approach to the future of work, outlined in the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted by the ILO’s member States in June 2019.

“Not enough companies are including disability in their work on diversity and inclusion, even though the benefits are increasingly proven,” said Shauna Olney Head of the ILO’s Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch. “We know that people with disabilities are currently more likely to be in vulnerable employment and to be paid less. If we are to achieve the goal of a future of work that includes everyone, we need to urgently adopt the principles outlined in this roadmap.”