International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Including people with disabilities, everyone stands to gain

“Too many people with disabilities are denied the dignity of work (...) We need to break barriers and open doors for an inclusive society for all,” says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a statement on the occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Statement | Geneva | 03 December 2013
The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities clearly describes our common challenge: we are called upon to break barriers and open doors for an inclusive society.

There are at least one billion people with disabilities across the globe around 785 million of whom are of working age. They represent a large, diverse pool of talent. Yet too many are denied the dignity of work. Their exclusion from employment and their location at the margins of society comes with an economic cost which the ILO has estimated at between 3 and 7 per cent of GDP. This is a significant waste of potential for the individual, for the community and for the society.

The situation of women and men with disabilities in the labour market is a cause for concern. They are far less likely than non-disabled people to be employed and, when they are, they are more likely to be in low-paid jobs with poor career prospects and precarious working conditions.

Also alarming is the fact that women and men with disabilities are far more likely than others to be outside the active labour market, not actively seeking employment. Often discouragement is a prime factor.

Those in situations of multiple discrimination and disadvantage, for example, women, indigenous people, migrants, and people with certain types of disabilities commonly face even greater barriers.

The ILO promotes decent and productive work for all, including people with disabilities."
The ILO promotes decent and productive work for all, including people with disabilities. Experience tells us that more often than not, they can perform the same tasks as the non-disabled. To have a fair chance they need access to skills and entrepreneurship development programmes, as well as to business development services and credit. The doors of enterprises and workplaces must also be open to them.

All together such measures will greatly help jobseekers with disabilities to compete successfully in their search for decent work, and entrepreneurs to develop viable, sustainable businesses.

The ILO aims to integrate disability issues in all relevant areas of our work: from the promotion of international labour standards, in particular Conventions on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons; to knowledge development and research; advocacy and technical cooperation.

We are pleased to collaborate with our tripartite constituents and other stakeholders to promote opportunities for persons with disabilities as part of the mainstream. The private sector has an important role to play and in recognition of this, our Global Business and Disability Network brings together multinational enterprises, employers’ organizations, national business networks and organizations of people with disabilities. This Network is having a positive impact in promoting strategic business awareness of the positive relationship between the inclusion of women and men with disabilities and business success.

Looking ahead, it is important that the post-2015 development framework explicitly includes women and men with disabilities. Specific measures should reflect the commitments States have entered into when ratifying pertinent international labour standards and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Consultation with employers’ and workers’ representatives and representatives of civil society – especially persons with disabilities themselves will be key to policy relevance and success.

Work – decent work – is a powerful instrument of inclusion. We have growing knowledge of what works in breaking down barriers and opening the doors of the world of work to
people with disabilities globally.

Everyone has a role to play and everyone stands to gain.