Opening Remarks at the Employer Seminar on Hiring People with Disabilities

by Mr Reuben Dudley, Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Phnom Penh | 27 June 2002

On behalf of the ILO Regional Director, Asia Pacific Region, Mr Yasuyuki Nodera, I bring you greetings. I wish to welcome the Hon. Minister H.E. Ith Sam Heng, MOSALVY and all organizations represented here, disabled persons and friends. This seminar today is a very special and unique event not only for Cambodia, but for Asia and the Pacific Region as well. It brings together some of Cambodia’s major employers to talk about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and the work of the Business Advisory Council. This meeting is employer-driven. Employers like many of you decided what the agenda should be, and some of the issues you might want to know about hiring workers with disabilities.

The ILO is pleased to be a cosponsor of this event. We want to thank all the Business Advisory Council members, the World Rehabilitation Fund and the National Council of Disabled Persons for their organizing efforts, as well as UNDP, UNMAS and the Japanese government for funding this unique project to assist people with disabilities. The ILO is pleased to be a technical partner in the overall project that has resulted in this significant business involvement.

From the ILO perspective, we believe that everyone, including people with disabilities, have the right to decent work. By decent work we mean productive work for all women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. As a tripartite organization, whose members include government, employers’ organizations and workers’ representatives, we believe in structures like the Business Advisory Council, which bring together social partners to solve workplace challenges. And the employment needs of people with disabilities is a major social and economic challenge. The approaches and services promoted by the ILO are aimed at helping to transform what are often marginal, survival activities for such workers into decent work, integrated into mainstream economic life.

Asia is home to two-thirds of the world’s poor. In the region alone there are nearly 370 million disabled people and about 238 million of them are of working age, according to estimates. While many countries lack reliable data on workers with disabilities, we know that their unemployment rate is usually double that of the general population and often as high as 80 percent in many countries, Because of many barriers, including those that limit access to education, training and employment, people with disabilities are among the poorest of the poor.

This is a complex issue, involving human rights, as well as social and economic dimensions. From the ILO perspective all workers with disabilities should have equal opportunities and receive equal treatment in the workplace as called for in the ILO Convention concerning Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons, 1983 (No. 159). The Convention, ratified by 73 countries to date, of which seven are in Asia, has been a guiding influence in the development of training and employment services for people throughout the world. The Convention calls for the involvement of employers’ and workers’ organizations in the development of policies and programmes to rehabilitate persons with disability.

To assist employers in this effort, the ILO developed the Code of Practice for Managing Disability in the Workplace. You should have copies of this document in your package. In cooperation with employers, people with disabilities and NGOs, we produced the video Ability Asia, which you will see today. The ILO has also developed a regional website on disability issues in the Region, which has a special page devoted to the interests of employers. Also, in your package is another ILO publication entitled Unlocking Potential: The New Disability Business Case, which was developed with the Employers’ Forum on Disability in the United Kingdom.

These are only tools. The real work of integrating workers with disabilities into the workplace will happen with the government, NGOs, businesses and other social partners who join in partnership in Cambodia to overcome the barriers and realize the benefits related to hiring disabled workers.

It is indeed significant that His Excellency the Prime Minister will join us later today, which further demonstrates the government’s commitment to this issue at the highest level.

I wish you a most productive and useful seminar.

I thank you.