Like in other European, countries inactivity rates of Polish workers with disabilities tend to be much higher than that of other workers. While their share of the working age population in Poland is 10 per cent, their share in employment is only 3.8 per cent, says a new ILO report on the situation of disabled people in Poland (Note 1). But there are also signs of improvement as the story of Paweł and his employer show. ILO Online reports from Poland.
POZNAN, Poland (ILO Online) – Paweł Kamiński works as a sales representative for a Polish company selling cosmetics, laboratory equipment, medical devices and disinfecting agents.
“I really like my job”, he says. “I don’t like being closed in a cellar ten floors below the ground. I like being with people”.
Sitting in his car, Paweł looks like any other sales representative in Poland. The fact that he uses a wheelchair does not make a difference for him … and his employer.
“I can ride on trains and buses, now I can also drive a car. It’s not a problem. You can do a lot of things in a wheelchair. I think I can do more than some of those fully capable of walking”, he says.
Mariusz Marszał, marketing executive and his supervisor, confirms that Paweł is a good worker. Managers like him particularly appreciate the ease with which most disabled persons establish contacts with others.
“I never made Paweł feel he is disabled. Quite the contrary – I expect from him just as much as I do from the other reps… Paweł will not show it, but deep in his heart he appreciates that we are just as demanding of him, that he has to achieve the same goals or results for the company”, he says.
But disabled people like Paweł that are fully integrated in the world of work are more the exception than the rule.
“One sees very few disabled persons in Polish streets, the same applies to workplaces. I hope, well, I believe that more Polish employers will understand that it’s worthwhile hiring people with disabilities who will contribute to the success of their companies, says Dorota Wellman, a well-known Polish TV presenter in a documentary produced for the ILO (Note 2).
According to the new ILO report on the situation of disabled people in Poland, the country has the highest level of disability in Europe, with some 2.38 million people with disabilities being of working age. This means that one in ten working age individuals has a certified disability.
What’s more, the participation rate of persons with disabilities in the open labour force tends to be considerably lower than that of other workers. Only 38 per cent of persons with disabilities of working age were in employment in Poland compared to 49 per cent in the United Kingdom and 52 per cent in Switzerland.
The situation in other OECD and European countries is similar. “Available statistics indicate that the labour force inactivity rate of workers with disabilities tends to be twice or more that of other workers”, says Arthur O’Reilly, former World President of Rehabilitation International and author of the ILO study, The right to decent work of persons with disabilities (Note 3).
But this is not to suggest that there has been no improvement. The global study refers to the significant growth in domestic anti-discrimination legislation in recent years, even though adoption of a law does not guarantee its enforcement.
Meanwhile, all over the world, businesses like the Polish cosmetics producer have also taken up the challenge.
“Employers notice how valuable the disabled workers are and how much they contribute to the development of the company. I strongly believe they are fully fit at work”, concludes Wellman.
Note 1 - Promoting employment of people with disabilities on the open labour market: Policy options for Poland, by Agnieska Chłoń-Domińczak and Dorota Poznańska, International Labour Office, 2007.
Note 2 - Fully Fit at Work, by Monika Pawluczuk, Andrzej Wajda Master School of Film Directing, copyright: ILO, Budapest, 2007.
Note 3 - The right to decent work of persons with disabilities, by Arthur O’Reilly, International Labour Office, Geneva, 2007 (for more information on the global situation of disabled people see www.ilo.org/iddp.